As smartphones and tablets are built with more processing power, storage and memory, the traditional boundary between desktop and mobile platforms is increasingly blurred. In fact, entire operating systems and applications are built to perform on both platforms without requiring specialized versions for each. For Web designers, the same approach of cross-platform optimization is key to increasing the number of visitors who stay on a website instead of navigating away in the first five seconds.
Responsive Web Design
Developing a website that responds to different screen sizes and input formats (mouse or touch) is known as Responsive Web Design. With 56% of the American adult population owning a smartphone and 42% owning a tablet, according to the Pew Research Center, consumers are just as likely to visit a business’ website from a mobile device as they are a desktop computer.
While creating an app for your business is always an option, most new visitors are linked to your website via a search engine. The best designed websites incorporating responsive features are therefore more likely to receive more page views on mobile devices.
Key Features of Responsive Web Design
Horizontal scrolling to view a webpage on a mobile device is a headache and a sign of a website not optimized for a mobile platform. This is one of the most significant issues addressed with Responsive Web Design.
Instead of loading a website using desktop dimensions on a smartphone display, the best designed websites incorporate viewport scaling in the code via media queries that determine the size of the display. What this does is resize the different elements of the page in relation to other elements to properly fit the screen’s pixel width. For example, a news blog layout that uses two columns, one for the main content and one for advertisements, will be coded to have the articles utilize 80 percent of the screen width and the ads 20 percent, whether it’s a 27-inch monitor or a 4-inch smartphone screen.
Another popular option is vertical stacking on mobile platforms. With this method, the desktop layout is replaced with a single column of content where pictures and text are still proportionally scaled to fit the display width.
Many websites feature multimedia content such as videos that are programmed to play automatically, full-screen advertisements that load at set intervals and background animations. Though many new smartphones and tablets feature quad-core processors and 2GB or more of RAM, some devices aren’t capable of displaying Flash content or don’t have a reliable Internet connection to stream videos. The best designed websites disable these features for the mobile platform, code in HTML5 so content will load on all platforms and rescale advertisements so they don’t consume the whole screen.
Navigating a website with a mouse is a completely different experience from using fingertips or a stylus. While a stylus offers more precision, most touchscreen devices are operated using a fingertip. Responsive Web Design takes into account the need for larger target sizes and more spacing between targets. On mobile platforms, menus are also placed in a location that’s more conducive to quick navigation, such as the bottom of the screen, and the coding is designed to understand and differentiate touch events from click events.
While creating an app can allow businesses to customize the user experience for a mobile platform, Responsive Web Design is the best way to ensure your website is optimized for a wide range of screen sizes.