Responsive design is the latest trend in web design that has everyone in the industry talking. But what exactly is it, and what must be done in order to classify a website as responsive? No matter if you are just starting out as a designer or have been one for several years, this guide will give a light sweep through over the fundamentals of responsive design.
First of all, in order to understand responsive design one must consider how the internet is changing, and the way people are accessing it. As new devices such as phones and tablets are introduced to the web, traditional desktop users have been slowly seeping away as well. The things that could be done on a computer can now be done with just a small handheld device.
According to Pew Research, up to 60% of Americans that own cell phones are using them to access the internet. On top of that, Smart Insights has also released data showing tablet purchases have overtaken desktop buyers in recent years.
As web designers it is very important that visitors are able to access your website in a way that is helpful and easy, no matter what device they are using. This has been the first point to responsive design.
You may have noticed several websites appearing differently when you access them using different devices. The website may be wide and full of colors when seen from a computer, yet compact and simple when using a smartphone. This is the first example of responsive design when the website automatically recognizes the user’s device and then shows the appropriate layout that is completely different from the other.
Another approach to responsive design is having the layout of a website change depending on the width of the screen. Unlike the previous example where different users with different devices will have different layouts, in this case all users will have the same layout only differently structured. A common scenario takes place when the website is viewed in a certain width, DIV layers may rearrange themselves, or images may change sizes to make it more proper for viewing.
There are many ways to make your website responsive. The most common way is with the use of CSS. Did you know that you are able to decide which CSS file to load depending on how users use your website? This means if your user is using a screen that is less than 800 pixels wide for example, a special CSS style sheet made for such resolution will be used.
If you are new to CSS or unsure about the best approach to code your website, I recommend using a CSS generator online. By using a simple UI, you will be able to customize your CSS with a few clicks of a button and then the code will be outputted to you.