What size banner should you be making for your hero graphic? It is advisable to use a different ratio for desktop versus mobile? While seemingly complex, these questions are actually easy to figure out once you have a good grip of responsive web design (RWD). Find out all you need to know about responsive web design techniques and how you can make it work for you in this article.


Responsive web design was initially defined by Ethan Marcotte in A List Apart. In essence, responsive web design is an approach that suggests development and design should respond to the user’s environment and behavior based on platform, orientation, and screen size.


Web design practices like RWD allow websites and pages to automatically render or display on all screen sizes and devices by automatically adapting to the screen, regardless if you’re using a desktop, tablet, laptop, or smartphone. At its core, RWD is all about responding to the users’ needs and the device being used.


Case in point: on a tablet, content is presented in two columns. On a smartphone, however, it is shown in a single column view. It is crucial to keep in mind that various screen sizes exist among desktops, tablets, and even wearables. Screen sizes also change frequently.


Therefore, it is important that websites can adapt to any screen regardless of size. This is also something small and big business owners need to consider when designing their e-commerce sites. It is also essential to remember that visitors will use various features to interact with their site.


For instance, while some visitors will not use a touchscreen, some will. That said, modern responsive web design should consider the critical factors mentioned to warrant an optimized experience for everyone. While responsive web design was once considered an “additional touch,” it’s now regarded as a necessity.

Key Elements of Responsive Web Design


Responsive web design has three primary elements, namely:


Fluid grid layout – this refers to the practice of creating a layout with a flexible grid that resizes automatically to screen size.

Flexible image and text sizes – media and scalable texts that change size as the viewport (otherwise known as the web page’s visible area) changes.

CSS media queries – this functionality allows specifying and changing of the website design depending on the browser window’s size.


In a nutshell, responsive web design works through several specific Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) styles that are applied at various viewport widths depending on the user’s browser and device type.

Benefits of Responsive Website Design


Responsive web design has several enticing benefits. Some of the most notable are:


  • Low maintenance and website development cost
  • Consistent and better user experience
  • Easier website management
  • Search engine optimization (SEO) boost

Low maintenance and website development cost


Before responsive web design was introduced, the primary practice was to maintain two sites—one for desktop users and another for mobile users. However, maintaining two sites can require effort, time, and money.


With responsive web design, you will only need one version of your site for any device users. Also, responsive web design gives you the luxury to run and maintain your page using the same domain.


This simplifies your costs and reduces both maintenance and website costs significantly. That said, a single responsive site design eliminates many expenses and hassles of maintaining a site that appeals to all visitors regardless of the device used.

Consistent and better user experience


With responsive web design, your visitors will no longer have to deal with unnecessary clicking, endless scrolling, and unreadable fonts. Responsive web design also helps ensure you provide a consistent and seamless user experience, a primary factor that can affect sales, lead generation, and conversions.


Without responsive web design, awkward layout views can give visitors the impression your site is unprofessional, and your business is not trustworthy. Unfortunately, visitors rarely come back to visit websites they deem untrustworthy.

Easier website management


Responsive website design gives you the option to maintain only a single site for all device users. That means if you want to implement design changes to your content, you can easily do so in one place. This level of flexibility can be very advantageous when it comes to managing your website.


Responsive web design also spares you from taking care of every aspect of your website and wasting time and effort updating its look. Instead, you can use the time to attend to other crucial components of your business that require your immediate attention.

Search engine optimization (SEO) boost


Since responsiveness is a Google-recommended design pattern, sites with responsive design have a better chance of ranking in the search engine results. The higher your rank is, the easier it is for potential clients to find you.


Also, as the number of mobile users grows exponentially, the importance of reaching customers on all devices cannot be overstated. Fortunately, responsiveness is an efficient and proven practice that can give your search engine optimization efforts a massive boost.

Responsive Web Design Tips and Techniques You Should Look Into


Below are some of the responsive web design tips and techniques that can take your site to the next level:

Give your typography some attention


Typography is essential for branding, overall look, and user experience. When it comes to mobile devices and typography, there are several factors to consider, such as:


  • Color contrast
  • Font size and type
  • Hierarchy levels
  • Line lengths
  • The amount of text


Here’s something not many people know: the type of font you use can evoke certain feelings in your visitors and can help you clearly convey whatever message it is that you want to get across.


Some studies indicate that font types have different feelings associated with them. That said, when you choose the right font type, you will be able to effectively set the mood of the site and help visitors know how to perceive your brand.


Also, ensure you have a good font size keeping the following essentials in mind:


Your font is too small if:


You have to squint your eyes when reading

You need to concentrate to read the text

You have the urge to zoom in just to read things


Your font is too large if:


You have the urge to zoom out

You can only read one to three words at a time

You notice letterforms rather than reading the content

Choose media accordingly


While undoubtedly more visually appealing, high-resolution images can slow loading time and take up a lot of space. In line with this, it would be best to compress the media file sizes so the site will not only load faster, the overall page performance will also improve dramatically.

Create whitespace


Allow your content to breathe by adding some spacing between the sections of your page and the elements. Set various margin settings and padding and adjust your line spacing and font sizes to the relative amount of whitespace.


Also, when designing a website for mobile, ensure your screen is not cluttered. Also see to it that the space splits up your content so you can provide a comfortable and pleasing experience even on smaller screens.

Change the box-sizing


In an HTML page, each of the components is represented as a rectangular box. It is also interpreted by the browser that utilizes the standard box model (CSS box model). The model determines the content of the space occupied by an element.


What you need to keep in mind when it comes to box-sizing is you need to make sure all the elements have the box-sizing as border-box. This can help ensure the properties’ size are not added to the width defined for the element.

Ensure navigation is easy


Without a doubt, easy navigation is one of the most challenging elements of a responsive web design since it can have a massive impact on the user experience. When designing a responsive site, you must create a clear navigation experience for your visitors.


Menus can help ensure your navigation is user-friendly, so it’s something worth considering. Besides, you need to also make sure your site visitors won’t experience reverse column ordering or any alignment issues.

Minimize page load time


There is no shortage of information online on the reason bounce from your page in just seconds. However, most of them will point to slow load time as the primary culprit. Minimizing page load time is vital as you will not only lose visitors but potential clients as well.


Page load speed is essential for tablet users and smartphones as they tend to get frustrated easier. To keep your bounce rate low, consider minimizing page load time a priority.  You can also minimize page load time by using optimized media files, doing away with tons of redirects, and cutting down on the number of plugins.


Only use icons where appropriate


Given that it’s used accordingly, icons can significantly improve your site’s overall responsiveness in various ways. Well-designed and appropriate iconography can effectively replace long bursts of texts. This is especially advantageous on small screens where space is a premium.


You can deliver icons to your website through the SVG (scalable vector graphics) file format. Scalable vector graphics are considered the perfect fit for multi-device-friendly sites since you can easily resize them as needed.

Final Thoughts


The RWD techniques above are some of the easiest you can implement in your responsive web design practice. Before starting any responsive work, you must get the basics right. It would also be a good idea to start with your HTML and content and take it from there. As long as you get the basics right, the rest should come easy!

Travis Romine