Responsiveness refers to a website’s ability to expand and collapse depending on the size of the screen it is displayed on. This will be a vital concept in web design as mobile devices claim an ever increasing share of internet use. Consider a site you visit frequently. When you are on a mobile device, it shrinks down and likely shows only carefully chosen information deemed most important. When you view it on a desktop, much more content is shown and it is laid out appropriately to fill a larger space, rather than simply displaying a larger version of the same layout.
In April 2015, Google reinforced the importance of responsiveness by rolling out what they called their “mobile-friendly update.” Their new algorithm boosts the visibility of sites with mobile versions, which in turn decreases the relative ranking of sites that do not have mobile counterparts. Developers heard this loud and clear. The world’s most powerful web company solidified mobile design as a necessary part of the future of the internet.
We discussed user experience (UX) in a recent post. It is vital to note that a responsive site does not necessarily ensure that users are experiencing your website in the most efficient way possible. Great UX must be maintained within a responsive site. Your users will visit your site with the expectation that they can easily find certain information and take certain actions. If they can’t quickly find what they need, they will go elsewhere and not return.
As mobile devices have become so prevalent, development firms have trended toward “mobile first” design. Since smartphones and other handheld devices are the smallest screens websites are viewed on, they are the platform where space is most valuable. Firms assess what content is most important and design for mobile devices with those priorities in mind. They then move on to the bigger screens with a clear focus on the most vital information.
Going in increasing order of screen size allows developers to isolate the core functions of a website and work from there rather than having to come up with items to remove while collapsing to a mobile site. Look for this trend of mobile first design to continue as responsiveness remains a priority in web development.