Responsive website design is an increasingly important approach to website design which makes certain that web pages render correctly on various browser-capable devices and with varying screen and page sizes. Recent research also considers the viewer’s proximity to the media-rich elements of a site as a substantial extension to RWD. RWD is, in fact, currently the principle technologies driving much of modern mobile application development. But there are definite parallels between RWD and responsive web design.
Both are used to build mobile-friendly versions of web sites that are fully viewable on both smartphones and tablets. The similarities stop there: on tablets, a user can swipe horizontally across the screen to scroll through a website; on smartphones, users can tap the screen to focus on a particular piece of content. While this can be accomplished using typical pointing devices, there is a much easier way. A recently introduced type of smartphone application – a “pinned” website – takes full advantage of RWD by providing a means of browsing a website that is optimized for a taller and wider screen.
Pinning applications are not new. There are already a number of browser-based services that provide the functionality of pinning websites to the edge of a smartphone’s screen, or as another instance of RWD, being able to swipe horizontally across a wide open display of a smartphone. However, these services have typically been used on desktop computers and laptops, where the user experience is less cluttered and certainly more professional. A smartphone, however, is often smaller, has a smaller screen size and a short battery life. It is thus important to take advantage of RWD and the user experience to create websites that will not only look great on the majority of smartphone handsets, but that will also work well and stay functional on the wide variety of other smartphone models out there.
The key to responsive website design lies in creating mobile optimized layouts. Even the smallest of device screens – from the small iPhone 4 to the Android smartphone – must meet the standards set by the W3C. This means that all of the images and any kind of visual content should be scalable up to two or three times their normal size in order to take advantage of the increased pixel density that allows viewers to easily view things on a smaller device. In addition to scaling images appropriately, this also ensures that the content can be viewed at any orientation in portrait, landscape or flip mode. For devices that are bigger, however, even two or three different sized images can cause a performance hit, so it is best to create smaller high quality images for use in mobile websites.
In addition to properly scaling images and content, a properly responsive website design also needs to ensure that all elements work together as smoothly as possible. For instance, a drop down menu on one page can appear fully expanded on smaller screens by default. This can cause users to unexpectedly lose their focus when navigating back to the top of most pages. To remedy this issue, simply include a sub-menu at the bottom of each page. By using the drop down menus with larger menus above them, it will be easier to navigate through the site. This will not only increase page loading time, but it will also decrease the amount of visitors that experience a ‘Bounce’ when they try and complete a task on your site.
Another important factor in a Responsive Web Design is keeping navigation easy and clear. A majority of users access the Internet on their smartphones and tablets first, and the majority of mobile devices do not have the same screen resolution that desktop computers have. Therefore, it is important to ensure that any images or other elements you use on your website can be viewed correctly on these smaller screens, and that users do not get lost when navigating between pages.
Google has recently announced that its new search engine, Google+ has received additional functionality that will allow users to search specifically for local businesses in their local region. The search function will not only return businesses within a certain area, but will also give users the option to share their favorite local shops, restaurants and other local businesses with their friends and family. As more businesses begin to implement Google+ into their mobile-friendly websites, the search engine giant will undoubtedly force mobile-friendly websites onto mobile users. It is in Google’s own interest to make sure that its search engine technology is as accessible as possible to all internet users.
The way that a website is designed and built depends heavily on the type of device that the website is intended for. When a website is built for a large audience of desktop computer users, there are some limitations to what can be done. However, when the website is designed for the mobile device, the authoring software can take advantage of different device features such as tap-to-push functionality and gesture-based controls to create a fluid browsing experience. Also, a Responsive Website Design will work seamlessly with mobile-friendly navigation methods and app icons that provide users with all the functionality they desire. For instance, having app icons that change appearance based on whether the user is on the desktop tablet or mobile phone will provide an engaging user experience and make responsive website design much easier than ever before.