By Anthony Overkamp
Responsive design is more than just a buzzword. Given the rise of mobile devices and their overtaking of desktop Internet usage, having a responsive website—one that is optimized for viewing regardless of device—is no longer a trend, but a necessity.
If you’re looking to create a responsive website, here are five pieces of advice to get you started:
1. Consider Mobile First
More content than ever is consumed on a mobile device, rather than the traditional desktop, meaning that mobile design shouldn’t be an afterthought. Whether embarking on a new project or upgrading an existing website, beginning with responsive design ensures a user-friendly, intuitive interaction across the board. With this approach, users will be able to access the website with any device and enjoy a functional, positive experience.
2. Design for Touch
In what context will your site be used on mobile? Will users look for a business’ nearest location, hours of operation, or contact information? If users can easily access this information and take action, they will surely have a better experience. Don’t forget that they will be navigating your site with touch, rather than a mouse or point-and-click device, so provide ample spacing between buttons or actions. We all know the frustration of making accidental choices due to inaccurate aim.
3. Less is More
Simplicity is a responsive website’s best friend. Users want to get to their destination point within the website without having to work or think too hard, with minimum taps and swipes. If you can eliminate a screen, skip it—a mobile website should be quick and easy to navigate. Keeping functionality simple not only optimizes a site for mobile, but can also enhance its desktop design.
4. Clear and Concise Content
Similar to the aforementioned “less is more” approach to design, content should be clear and concise on a responsive site. Avoid the dreaded large sections of text, but most importantly, take a good look at your content strategy as a whole. You may find that if content isn’t needed on a mobile site, it may not belong on the desktop site either.
5. Limit Images
Too many images, or images that are too large, will take longer to load on a mobile device. This can be very frustrating for users. Consider using smaller sizes, alternate graphics or compress images so they’ll load quickly on a mobile network connection. As a rule of thumb, take the lead from Google Developers, who recommend that content above the fold on a mobile device should load in under one second, while the entire page should load in under 2 seconds.
Remember: if your site is responsive, you’ll save users the frustration of struggling to read small text, waiting for large graphics to load, and scrolling endlessly until they find the information they need. As a result, these users are more likely to become loyal customers who will keep coming back to your site no matter what device they are using.
Anthony Overkamp is creative director at Engage.