Remember the days when everyone had the same clunky desktop computer? Entire families shared time on one screen and dialed-up the internet; the Nokia 3310 was the norm, while Mac computers were a luxury.
However, today we have a countless number of options for communicating, browsing the internet, and completing tasks online, whether you’re loyal to Apple, or have come to prefer Android smartphones, Amazon tablets, and Microsoft PCs.
In many ways, this is a great thing — we’re convinced of our choices and hold our devices dear, although it has created a significant issue for our web designer friends. When every device, operating system, and browser responds to design differently, accommodating aesthetics on a countless number of configurations can be overwhelming.
Smaller screens mean content will be naturally harder to read, especially if it’s not designed for different devices. Responsive web design means not just fitting a site to a screen, but optimizing it for that specific user’s experience.
No one wants to have to zoom in to view content. Instead, it should follow a layout that makes sense for varying screen sizes. Especially for older users or users with disabilities, if text content is too small, they’re probably not going to spend much time trying to figure out what your site says.
Ads and Popups
Too many times site owners will implement some kind of advertisement without making sure it’s responsive. As a result, customers end up visiting pages and encountering pop-ups that don’t explicitly allow them to exit or even continue using the page.
While pop-up call-to-actions and paid ads may be an integral part of your marketing strategy, consumers won’t buy if they physically can’t use the site — that’s just common sense. If your testing shows that pop-ups make it impossible for visitors to shop, it’s probably time to take another look at some elements of code in your overlay.
It’s easy to think of responsive web design just in terms of visual layout, but to be truly responsive you have to consider the way a user interacts with different devices.
Simply put, on a laptop, you’re using a cursor and keyboard, while on most phones and tablets you’re using your fingertips. This is going to create an entirely different user experience as your point of touch is larger and less precise when you’re using your fingers on a smaller screen. This means that many of the functions, navigation buttons, and links that work for users on laptops and desktops might have to be altered to satisfy the mobile user
Feeling overwhelmed by the number of devices, browsers, and screen resolutions you have to test for responsive web design? Bet you forgot about screen rotation.
That’s right, not only do you have to optimize your website for users on small, vertically positioned smartphones, you also have to test for what happens when someone turns their phone or tablet on its side to view content horizontally.
Additionally, there’s nothing that will turn a user away faster than telling them they have to turn their phone screen a certain to way view content. If you’re asking users to do this, you haven’t made your website responsive enough.
A word of advice — don’t make your application an obstacle course by requiring users to alter their preferences to accommodate your site.
When text, images, and other elements aren’t properly optimized for responsive web design, there are a few common annoyances that occur.
- Wrapping – You know when a navigation bar or a word in a headline goes off-screen and continues on the next line? Yeah, that doesn’t look good to your users.
- Spacing – Extensive white space between elements, unaligned text and images, and seemingly endless scrolling do not contribute to a happy mobile user.
- Overlapping – Text and image overlapping is not only atrocious and unprofessional to look at, it’s also notably harder to read.
- Distortion – When a text or image tries to fit a space it’s not designed for, your website will start to look like it went through a fun house where content stretches and condenses to try to fit.
- Disappearances – Even less fortunate than wrapping and distorted elements, portions of fixed width images tend to disappear completely if they don’t fit onto the page.
Testing Responsive Web Design
While this may seem like a lot to take in if you haven’t yet approached responsive web design, it is crucial to test for these details.
While many of our shopping habits have predominantly moved online, marketers have realized the value of a mobile-first mindset, and responsive design is a requirement for retailers who want to keep customers on their site.
At the end of the day, no matter how a visitor gets to your page, they should all be afforded the same usability across devices and browsers.