2015 saw the world reach what has been dubbed the mobile tipping point. As of that point, more people are accessing the internet using mobile devices than desktop or laptop computers. And as a result, the way we design websites is changing.
It’s no longer enough for websites to look and function effectively on a computer—they also have to be fully functional on tablets and smartphones too. This principle is called responsive web design, and it’s quickly becoming essential for all sites to adopt this kind of design.
A Consistent Browsing Experience
For people who own a tablet or smartphone and a computer, it’s a common habit to access the same websites on both types of devices. And there’s nothing more frustrating for these users than an inconsistent browsing experience where the site they’re trying to access doesn’t work as effectively on a mobile device as it does on their computer.
People increasingly use their mobile devices as decision-making tools when they’re researching and making purchases, so if your organisation’s website isn’t fully functional on mobile, you risk losing a lot of sales opportunities.
Compatible on Multiple Platforms
Compatibility between different kinds of devices is important, but it’s also important to take this concept a step further, and ensure your website is compatible with different operating systems and browsers. Not so long ago, businesses were struggling to make their sites compatible with any browser other than Internet Explorer, but these days there are many more issues to contend with. The existence of multiple mobile platforms and device models means that compatibility is incredibly important.
No matter how functional a website is when viewed on a desktop computer, that same website can look and function poorly on a mobile device, if it’s not designed with responsive principles in mind. This is particularly important to bear in mind when it comes to navigation, because the navigation elements that work well on a full-size computer screen aren’t necessarily the same elements that work well on a mobile device.
Maintaining White Space
White space, or empty space, is important for creating websites that are clear, attractive, and easy to read. The problem is, a design that meets these requirements on a computer screen may not perform the same way on mobile devices. Margins, paragraph breaks, and other white-space areas can disappear on a mobile screen, making text cramped and hard to read. A responsive design makes the reader’s experience a priority and ensures that the ratio of text and graphical elements to white space still provides a comfortable reading experience, even on small screens.
Optimising Load Time
As powerful as the latest mobile devices are, they still don’t keep pace with the power of a desktop computer. Another consideration is that most mobile users access the internet on mobile connections rather than via broadband or fibre.
Because of this, a responsive design should aim to minimise loading times for mobile users; one simple way to do this is by optimising image sizes for mobile platforms.