Now imagine if you visited a site on your phone only to find that it didn’t properly adapt to your device, but required you to resize, scroll, or otherwise struggle with what looked like a website designed for a desktop computer.
Chances are, you aren’t going to stick around on that website, and it isn’t very likely you will return in the future to make a purchase or find information.
This is what makes responsive web design – the practice of building websites to adapt and provide an optimal experience on numerous devices – such an integral part of modern web development.
However, mere responsiveness is not sufficient to ensure a positive user experience. It's essential to ensure that your responsive website offers the smoothest, most hassle-free browsing experience possible. The following are four characteristics of a well-designed responsive website:
1. It looks great on all devices
This isn’t algebra – you don’t want smartphone users to find "X." If your site isn’t responsive, there’s a good chance mobile visitors will tap the close button in the top corner.
A responsive site's purpose is to make sure it works across all devices (desktop computer monitors, tablets, smartphones) and browsers. However, if you're not careful, some sections of text, photos, graphics, or other elements might not render as well on certain devices. This can frustrate readers and send their fingers to the X button in the top corner of their browser.
Across the globe, the number of smartphone users is projected to reach more than 7 billion by the end of 2024. If your website doesn't render properly on smartphones, that's a large market you might never reach, especially since some consumers rely exclusively on their phones for internet access.
A professional web designer will exhaustively test your site on multiple devices and with as many browsers as possible. This way, you don't have to worry about incompatibilities.
2. Users can tap and click
A responsive web design with tiny navigation buttons might not work as well as you anticipated. Tablet and smartphone users (and even some desktop users) use their fingers to tap navigation buttons. Smaller icons will prove finicky even to small fingers.
When you're planning a responsive web design, you have to consider user behavior as well as coding accuracy and design appeal. If consumers can't use your website, it becomes far less effective.
3. Web elements scale evenly
On a well-designed responsive site, all elements will scale evenly as the browser window expands or contracts. In other words, on smaller screens, both text and graphics will realign themselves to fit the limited space.
A clunky responsive website design might not do this. For instance, maybe the text resizes accordingly, but the graphics stay the same. This can prove jarring to the web surfer who wants to view your content but doesn't know how to interact with its elements.
A responsive site that scales images, text, and other elements properly is more user-friendly and less likely to aggravate visitors.
4. You still have whitespace
When you have a chat with a friend over coffee, you don't constantly talk from the moment you sit down with your lattes. You say something, your pal says something, and maybe there are a few beats of silence in between. Those pauses give you both time to breathe and to reflect on what you've just heard or said.
Whitespace works the same way in web design. It eliminates visual clutter and allows users to understand your site's layout more clearly. In many cases, responsive websites lack whitespace when they shrink. Expert designers create padding and other forms of whitespace as they design the layout.