When you view a professional web design from multiple devices, what do you want to experience? One thing’s for sure — you do not want to wait several seconds to load a messy, crowded-looking web page that requires you to search like crazy for the essential content. The ideal responsive website is quick to load, looks like it was made expressly for whatever device the viewer uses, and presents all the essential messaging, controls and links in a logical manner. Let’s look at some ways of achieving that.
Putting Concept Before Code
Your website visitors don’t care how you achieved your final design — only that the final design looks great and works for their needs. With that in mind, consider taking a layout-first, coding-second approach to your responsive website project. Decide right from the beginning how your audience would like each web page to look at several different screen resolutions. Which page features should disappear or reorganize themselves as the screen shrinks, and how should the reordered page look and function?
Once you’ve completed this concept work, you’ve got a final destination toward which you can aim all your coding efforts. The result is a responsive website with a content-driven layout and right-sized feature set.
Ensuring Faster Load Times
The longer your responsive pages take to load, the more of your audience you lose, to the point that 25 percent of viewers will ditch a page that’s still loading at the four-second mark. Part of the problem is the fact that smaller screens and processors are easily overloaded by multiple scripts and image-heavy files. You can solve this challenge for your mobile audience by employing a technique called conditional loading into your responsive design. This programming ensures that certain less-than-critical icons and snippets are minimized into links to your main site (or omitted altogether) at a particular screen size.
Responsive images are also helpful for speeding up load times on a graphics-oriented site. This programming feature re-scales those large file sizes into smaller ones best suited for the device viewing them, regardless of operating system and without altering the markup. Responsive images hog less bandwidth and deliver your eye-popping visuals ASAP.
Thinking Beyond the Fold
Professional web design has traditionally recommended placing the most critical content “above the fold” so viewers get the core message without scrolling. These days, however, scrolling is accepted as a way of life on monitors large and small, so you’re free to choose other options for your responsive site.
Responsive web designs can automatically scale down a large image so that it fills the entire screen at whatever resolution that screen supports. The only problem is that your viewer can’t enlarge that image any further to view details — a potential deal-killer if your business depends on winning people over through, say, online product galleries. Luckily, you’re not stuck with that option. You can opt to display your gallery as a long, scrollable page that gives your viewers a good, detailed look at your offerings.
The exception to this rule occurs in the design you select for text-driven content on the smallest mobile options, such as smartphone screens. In this case, the fold concept is still alive and well; viewers really can get tired of the endless scrolling involved in getting to the meat of your content. Consider a pattern that automatically pushes the first (and most important) chunk of text toward the top of the page, followed by images and supporting text.
A good responsive web design provides all the information its viewer needs, speedily and intuitively. Implement some of the tips mentioned above, and you’ll have a professional web design that transforms itself more gracefully and intelligently. Download our white paper on mobile website design for further insights!