Principles behind responsive web design

Oct 25, 2022

When creating a new site or choosing to redesign an old and outdated website, responsive design is now (or certainly should be) built into the process. 

Why? 

Because we, as consumers, can now access the internet from various devices. From desktops and tablets to our smartphones and even smartwatches, information online is now available everywhere. 

For businesses, this means a responsive web design is no longer a nice thing to have but a must-have. 

Today, we must build websites to adapt to different browsers and devices automatically, providing the end user with a seamless experience of your brand. 

But what makes an effective, responsive web design? And how do we approach responsiveness to optimise the user experience? 

This post looks at some of the most common web design principles for responsive design, elements to consider, and why now is the perfect time to start redesigning your website. 

Responsive design for web responsive web design principles 

Layout 

When looking at responsive web design, layout is everything, and your web pages should be created to adapt to the current viewport width and height. In these instances, we recommend using the percentage viewport height or width.  

Working with percentages is a clearer and more consistent approach, helping to improve adaptability, which is not always possible with pixels (pixel density can vary immensely, whereas 50% of something is 50% regardless of device or screen size). 

Using view height and view width measurements in this capacity is also a good way to size a background to fit entire screens. 

Images 

Make sure to size them properly!  

Sizing images correctly is essential. Stopping page load times from slowing down and keeping content fresh and SEO friendly. 

Principles in this area should consider absolute and relative measurements, where absolute should be used when the size of an element should not be changed (great if you’re looking for consistency across devices).  

And relative measurements should be used to help size images relative to their surroundings. Allowing you to scale better when designing between viewports (see layout). 

Content 

We’re sticklers when it comes to the principle: web design should support content, not the other way around. 

Your website should also include long, and short-form content and all content should be optimised using content-based breakpoints rather than device-based ones (where your breakpoints are determined based on your content and allow the layout to change at predefined points). 

However, we advise keeping the number of breakpoints you need to a minimum. 

Other content principles to bear in mind: 

  • Don’t hide content, make it difficult to find, or only make certain pieces of content available on desktop. Research shows that mobile users want and require just as much information to inform their decision. 
  • Content should be in a clear, logical hierarchy. 
  • Your content must answer your target audiences’ questions. 

Fonts 

Choose your fonts carefully. For example, if you opt for a web font (compared to system fonts), this must be downloaded, which can slow down your page load times, and slower page loading times will always have a detrimental effect on user experience. 

You must plan your font sizes carefully and know what works best for you and what promotes your brand. 

Icons 

If you have icons on your site to support particular areas of content, for example, a telephone icon for `call us` – these should ideally be in bitmap format, i.e., jpg, png, or gif. 

There are vector formats available, i.e., SVG or icon font, that allow you to scale icons easily; however, some older browsers no longer support vector formats. 

You can also include icons in nested objects, where the elements are wrapped in a container helping to keep them clean, tidy, and understandable. Elements in a flex or grid container like this work together by positioning designs where they need to be. 

Design before you code 

Understanding how the design fits on small, medium, and large screens can support your coding later and be considerably less time-consuming.  

CSS properties like Flex box can also help with mobile structure, keeping everything fluid. 

Test, test, and then test again 

You should always and continually test the quality of your web pages and their responsiveness across various browsers and devices. 

What you think might work could potentially be a big flop in reality. Testing allows you to fix any bugs asap. 

Mobile or desktop first 

There is no right or wrong design way, and this is entirely down to personal preference and what works best for you. 

Mobile first helps you to structure HTML more coherently. 

Desktop first helps with spacing and layout techniques. 

What we would advise is that before making your decision consider browser compatibility, user needs, and any external factors. 

In addition, responsive web design service teams will design layouts based on screens, not devices. This is because there are a lot, and we mean a lot, of different types of devices; it is actually impossible to design for them all, but you can design based on screen size, keeping to broad categories such as small, medium, and large. 

Website Design UK 

Designing a responsive website is, for us, best practice as we understand that a website can make or break your brand and reputation. 

As website design service specialists, we also know that user experience should be at the heart of your design. Content should fit comfortably across a range of devices because consumers want full content no matter what they view content on, and it is up to you to present this information in a way that supports the user journey, ensuring they can find information easily and effortlessly. 

Whether you need a responsive website redesign or a new website, the team at Buzz Panda Digital is here to support you every responsive design step of the way. 

Call us now at 01606 374 995 or email your requirements to cathy@buzzpandadigital.co.uk