Considering the rate at which the mobile web is growing, it's becoming crucial that your website be ready to accept visitors who are coming in from a widely assorted array of different devices and screen sizes.
This is where responsive design can come into the picture and save your day nicely. However, with responsive design, as with anything in website design, you need to make sure that you follow along with some crucial best practices if you want your responsive site to actually work well and provide the flexibility it's supposed to.
Mobile Users Deserve the Same Quality of Browsing Experience
One of the first and foremost principles to keep in mind when creating a responsive design site is making sure that the site is built so that the browsing experience is evenly the same for all users across the board.
This means that your site's appearance and visual structure should change without ever creating content and function losses for users of any specific device or screen size. A visitor accessing your pages from their desktop should be getting the same sort of browsing experience as a visitor coming in through their smart phone or their tablet.
This means flexible everything and requires that you ensure all of your image, content and grids are fully fluid and will reconfigure accordingly on a wide assortment of screen sizes, such as these, which are only a small sampling of the very most popular screen sizes you're likely to deal with.
The result should be a site that converts as nicely as this example does.
Design your Site with Responsive in Mind
When you're wire framing your site layout together for coding into a real design, understand that there are layouts which are ideal for responsive design and those which are not, meaning there are designs that convert to assorted new sizes better than others thanks to their layout.
This means designing as simple a site layout and HTML code as possible and using simple mechanisms for core elements such as navigation and menu options, using HTML5 guidelines and doctype, and a simple overall core layout.
Pay Attention to your Breakpoints
Resolutions can be defined in an assortment of breakpoints, but there are several major sizes that you need to focus on more than any others. These being:
<480px (which applies to older, smaller smartphone screen sizes)
<768px, which is ideal for larger smartphones and smaller tablets
>768px, which applies for everything bigger such as large tablet screens and desktops screens.
Also, these can be used too if you've got the energy and time:
<320px, which is great for older small, low res phones
>1024px stylesheet for wide screens on desktops.
These are the key breakpoints to focus on and especially the first three as well as the full desktop resolution, which is greater than 1024px.
Make your Images Flexible and Workable
With a simple design, you can make your images flexible as well to a certain degree. The easiest way to accomplish this is by simply using adaptative sizing and resizing their width.
You can do this in a variety of ways, but one of the easiest methods through which to achieve it is with this handy little tool: Adaptive Images. Bear in mind that sizing accordingly for mobile users is probably your best bet on a responsive design site if you want decent load speeds, which are absolutely crucial.
You could also use variable breakpoints and store multiple image sizes in your data for different screen resolutions, but this might become a problem in terms of bandwidth usage, and you cannot create your site with the safe assumption that all of your viewers will have access to powerful bandwidth.
Allow Compression of Site Elements and Content
Use a program such as GZIP to compress your page resources for easier transmission across networks. You'll have lowered the number of bytes sent per page or element and made your content easier to browse and access from devices with varying or low bandwidth.
Furthermore, you can speed things up even further by removing any unnecessary white space and line breaks. Doing this will reduce file sizes overall and keep things flowing more smoothly.
Get Rid of Non-Essential Content
In order to make your mobile friendly responsive design site really shine in a very easy to achieve way, simply bear one thing in mind: Some content and content elements were never meant to be used in a mobile context and would never work there.
If you have these elements at play in your website or potential site layout, then get rid of them immediately for any mobile setting. You can do this by adding a .not_mobile class to specific elements that you'd like to see removed when your site is viewed in a mobile context or you can simply get rid of such elements permanently from all versions of your site.
Remember the Bottom Line
The above are just some of the major best practices you can try out, some of the more important ones.
Ultimately however, if you want your responsive design site to work well, you need to build it so that it can load and function quickly on devices that will often have low resolution, small processing power and sometimes weak bandwidth access. This means a simple, well organized site that conforms to its core function with maximal focus.
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