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9 Things To Remember When Designing A Responsive Website

By Eva Barnes , Jul 5 2016
Responsive Website

Featured Image: thinkstock/scyther5

One design to rule them all. One design to find them,
One design to bring them all and in the compiler bind them

Just a few years back, designers were always sure of the dimensions of work they were commissioned to do, be it a newspaper column, a poster, or a book cover. However, with the burgeoning rise of iPads, smartphones, tablets, and myriad other monitors of varying resolutions and ratios, we have lost track of our visual borders. With the incessant barrage of devices and resolutions being introduced around the clock, it’s next to impossible to create a separate website rendition for each new device and screen size. Should we suffer the aftermaths of weaning users off some devices? No.

Thus it came as no surprise when responsive web design came into the picture like a messiah and became the new buzzword. This emerging trend has none to do with aesthetics or fashion, it is an ingenious attempt to resolve usability problems that stemmed due to a wide array of devices being used to browse the internet.

A responsive web design is a creative approach where a web page is inculcated with the ability to resize itself or respond to the type of device it is being viewed on. That could run the gamut from a 4 inch smartphone, to a 7-inch tablet, a laptop, or an oversized desktop monitor. The entire layout of the webpage is designed to alter according to the specific screen size of the device used. This helps to nurture a seamless mobile user interaction.

If you are thinking about developing a responsive website any time soon, here are some imperative things to consider and keep in mind for maximum effectiveness:

1. Preserve The Vital Content

It is imperative to prioritize what you want to see rise to the top of your responsive website. A key to strategic responsive design is to prioritize the most pertinent fields and information. Less is more and you need you boil your website down to basics. President Obama’s website is an excellent example of a website that knows how to stick to priorities.


When you narrow down the width, the “DONATE” button jumps up to the center and front, with “ZIP” and “Email” forms and the essential “Create Account” and “Log in” buttons forming the crucial point. Tantalizingly situated, “The VERY LATEST” hints at a list of links up for grabs.

Do you see how the site refuses to circumvent emotional design even when it condenses: the central calls to actions are untouched, the photo is conspicuous, and the fervent “I’M IN!” is a laconic one-size-fits-all. Furthermore, the site doesn’t skimp on the grassroots onboarding and organizing efforts that formed the foundation of this historic campaign.

2. Test And Test Again

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No website is the epitome of perfection, without testing that is. A cutting edge responsive website needs even more intensive training. Contrary to an “adaptive” layout designed for specific platforms, testing a responsive layout is not a bed of roses. All you can do is to round up all the devices you can amass, try your hands at responsive-specific testing tools, perform routine checks on a wide array of devices and browsers, and capitalize on the usual slew of usability testing that you have available.

3. Improve Navigation


Imagine the exasperation of being left alone in the middle of a labyrinth, without a road map, in an unfamiliar surrounding! This is exactly how the users feel when faced with unintuitive navigation. The purpose of a responsive website is to make the user experience as convenient as possible. To achieve this, keep the navigation of your website simple, easy to follow, and intuitive. You don’t want visitors to run to the welcoming arms of a competitor just because they think that navigating your website is more trouble than its worth.

Here are some of the ways you can ace navigation for your responsive website:

Jump links

Jump Link

This has to be one of the most universal and simplest techniques for responsive mobile navigation. Stripped of its finesse, a jump link menu is basically an anchor link that jumps the visitor right down to the menu placed at the footer of the page.


Drop Down

A drop down menu is also a popular choice for responsive mobile navigation, where the main menu icon unravels the navigation below with a fluid, sliding motion. The technique employs JavaScript to hide the menu behind the button, and only reveals it when requested by the user. Even items within the navigation could be hiding any child elements that they may have. This allows users to flow through the different levels of navigation, skipping the myriad landing pages in between.


Off Canvas

Pioneered by Facebook on their mobile apps, this method permits the designer to slide in the site’s navigation upon the user’s request and situate it off the edge of the viewport at other times.

4. Keep It Readable (Without A Microscope)

Remember that a 14px height line of text on a 2000 px wide screen will be diminished down to 2px on a 300 px wide screen; it becomes barely legible except perhaps if you have supernatural vision.


In contrast, scaling 10px text up 7x would make it too gigantic to fit your screen. You need to remember to maintain readable and reasonable typographic proportions on every device by adapting your layouts to the screen widths available.

5. Keep It Tappable

Almost all screens are touch enabled these days and maneuvered with fingers, instead of styluses. Remember not to make the tappable elements smaller than the tips of an average finger. According to Apple, the minimum comfortable size of tappable UI elements is 44 x 44px.

However, this limit is often not complied with and a more realistic limit is set at 25px.

6. Finessing Your Fonts

Expressive fonts, when meticulously chosen, can do wonders for your responsive website. Before delving in to a mobile-first approach, you should play around the concept of responsive typography and typography-first approach on your responsive site. Remember that content is the one true king, so it is absolutely crucial to design your text for enhanced readability on various viewports.


Test as many fonts as you can, and zero in on what you can call a perfect measure on all screen resolutions; falling somewhat between 45 and 90 characters per line on average. It is also prudent to test your font in Windows and see if the font hinting is adequate.

7. Make Your Images Workable And Flexible


With a simple design, your images can also be rendered flexible to a certain degree. The best way to accomplish this is by resizing their width and using adaptive sizing. Keep in mind that in order to garner decent load speeds for your visitors, your best bet is to size accordingly for mobile users. You could also store multiple image sizes and use variable breakpoints in your data for each individual screen resolution, but this could pose challenges when it comes to bandwidth usage and leaves the website design on the perilous assumption that all visitors have access to powerful bandwidth.

8. Do Not Test User Patience

Remember that User patience is generally teetering precariously on an edge and is not hard to tip over, and trust me on that one, there is much to tip the scales the wrong way. Take the internet connection for instance; it is not always as infallible or swift as one may like and users often need support for obsolete systems and browsers. According to a research, the average web page comes up at a staggering 2.1 MB in size. Time to bid adieu to performance.

Average Web Page Size

User patience is also tried by text overlapping as the screen shrinks, critical content getting buried under the weight of a lengthy scroll, and inept navigation tools ( just a few of my pet peeves, more to follow). Keep in mind that the more content intensive your site is, the more it will have a bearing on load times too. Performance optimization for your responsive web site is highly indispensable if you want to assuage the bounce rates. Not to mention, it pays off well in longer site visits, lucrative profits, and more conversions.


It’s time to skimp on elements like homepage carousels, which incorporate a plethora of large images in conjunction with the JavaScript essential to “animate” those flashing billboard displays. By replacing a carousel with a single, static image, you can significantly cut down the size of the page.

9. Use Icons Where Appropriate

Icons can work wonders for your responsive website when used the right way. Appropriate, well designed iconography can seek to replace lengthy bursts of text, which is desperately needed on smaller screens where space is a luxury. SVG file format should be employed to deliver icons to your responsive website, as these Scalable Vector Graphics can be resized as needed and are a perfect fit for multi-device friendly sites.


These graphics can also be animated with CSS, in order to throw in some interesting effects to a design without weighting it down with staggering extra scripts which will affect the site’s performance negatively. For browsers that do not support SVG, fall back support is required. However, for browsers that do, this file format can offer a host of benefits.

Ready To Get Responsive?

The days when all a designer had to contend with was the typography styles of their web pages, the colors used, and the juxtaposition of content, are long gone. We no longer know a world where designers were simply hired for typical waterfall style projects, mainly to color in detailed wireframes. Now a days, designers have much up their sleeves. As our industry continues to keep up with the barrage of web-enabled devices being released by the likes of Microsoft, Apple, and Google, there is always something new and exhilarating to undertake in the exciting world of responsible design. With the incessant innovation of new devices, businesses need to stay abreast of the latest trends to make sure they are maximizing their online potential.

With the above listed considerations in mind, you’ll be more apt to meet the challenge of improvising or starting your own responsive website head on. Whether it’s no longer making the user rummage around for “Contact Us” through a 7-swipe scroll, or summarizing your site’s pages to elevator pitches, the opportunities for betterment are ample. Let our mutual passion for innovation and improvement fuel your responsive design adventure!

About The Author

Eva is a marketing major with a keen interest in web design. She is also an explorer and loves to dig into web trends from mobile apps to visual communication and everything in between. Feel free to send her your web design queries or blog related feedback in the comments below.

One Comment on “ 9 Things To Remember When Designing A Responsive Website ”

  1. Amy Says:

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