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5 Responsive Web Design Best Practices

Updated on June 17, 2024
Posted on April 17, 2017 by Michael White

5 Responsive Web Design Best Practices

While responsive website design used to be optional, there’s no escaping its importance in today’s mobile crazy world. Websites of every kind are adapting their interfaces to cater to the wide range of devices on the market, some with more success than others. And when responsive web design is handled incorrectly, it can seriously detract from the site’s quality. The user experience suffers. Bounce rates skyrocket.

With that in mind, here are a few best practices that any website deeming itself “responsive” must have.

1. Device Adaptability

These days, mobile-friendly responsiveness isn’t just necessary, it’s the first step in creating an adaptable web page that meets the demands of its users.

It’s not enough to be mobile—true responsive design must be adaptable to any size screen, from desktop monitor to smartphone to tablet. This applies to every on-site element including page width, images, and headlines. Every aspect of a website’s markup must be context-aware and scale with the screen. 

2. Mobile-First Philosophy

When we discuss the mobile-first philosophy, we mean the mental approach that is applied to the responsive web design process. When designing for mobile devices, there’s little room for extraneous page elements. Screens are small, and page real estate is limited. Only the most pertinent elements make the cut.

Keep this mindset at the forefront of your responsive design planning. Your page may be adaptable, but the requirement for a lean and organized page hierarchy doesn’t change. 

3. Human Engineering

In addition to the CSS and HTML markup that forms the computerized bones of your web page, your site must always keep the user in mind to guarantee a quality experience when screen sizes scale. Will text be too small to read? Will critical CTAs or contact forms get shoved off screen? Is the visual hierarchy of the page disrupted?

Developers must use on-page styling elements to ensure a smooth UX here, including strategic use of colors, text blocks, and outlines that increase visual perception for readers. 

4. Intuitive Navigation

Unlike other site elements, navigation tends to change based on device. Navigational elements such as hyperlinks and drop down menus often become difficult to manipulate on small screens. For effective web design, developers need to consider when the context of a device will require a change in strategy.

Hover menus activated by mouse, for example, aren’t feasible for touchscreen devices. When dealing with responsive web design, the site navigation must play to the devices strengths while staying intuitive for the user behind the screen. 

5. Consistency

Responsive website design doesn’t mean you’re offering different browsing experiences based on device. Really, it means you’re offering the same browsing experience.

Consistency of layout is essential for responsive web design. This applies to elements like typography, content layout, menus, and more. The location of these elements may change based on how your page markup scales your layout, but the essentials should always be there, no matter what device your audience uses. 

Achieving Truly Responsive Design

Sure, your talented team of coders can guarantee that your web design is responsive across multiple devices, but this functionality isn’t the end-all of the responsive web design experience. For the best responsive experience possible, developers need to consider the entire spectrum of how users interact with web pages and the devices hosting them.

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out: "Benefits of Mobile First Web Design."

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