Responsive Website Design

by Kate Burke

The term refers to a website that responds to (displays correctly on) any type of device you choose to use. It’s fluid and flexible. Basically, this means a site that works on a computer will also work equally well on a mobile device like a phone or tablet. (Or whatever communication device somebody dreams up next.) Because of the complexity of making the design responsive to a myriad of devices, successful website design is really not a ‘do-it-yourself” project. For a professional image, you need professional help.

Design Template

In the broad sense, this means you purchase or download a website design template, or hire someone to design one for you, that has responsiveness built into it. Translation: The website is viewable on most any device from desktop to body imprint (the latest technology, which beams digital image on your arm or other visible body part). A ‘responsive’ template does that for you, sets up the site so it should work on most any device, and although you can make a few “custom” changes like font style and color, choice of social media links, page width (to use or not use a sidebar), for example, the design is pre-defined. It may require a little “front-end” programming (simple code changes) so that your website will look more like the way you want it to. You input your data, publish the site, and you’re online. This is the simplest approach, and does not accomodate custom design. That is something that requires a site designer to upgrade the basic template or create a custom template.

Web design is all about how the site looks and how well it attracts visitors. Website success, however, is more than just a pretty page with a lot of bells and whistles. The site has to have a landing page that requires the visitor to take action, which, hopefully, results in a sale.

“Simple” templates are not that simple. When you read, “You can do it yourself,” you probably can, but it won’t look or work the way you want it to.  Which is why you need a little help from a good web developer who can help you develop the template (build the website) with the emphasis on how it works and what you need it to do for you specifically. This is what gives you a responsive website, and it requires a lot more complex programming, the “back-end” programming that determines site functionality; i.e., how it works, more than how it looks.

A responsive website will visually rearrange itself on the device’s screen to fit its parameters. Desktop computer (or laptop), menu (with words) on top linking to pages of main content, some or all with an adjacent sidebar, and maybe three or four bottom link boxes. On a skinny phone, however, the menu may be little stacked lines, not necessarily at the top. The main content usually displays on top, followed by sidebar content stacked below, and those footer items way down there. A tablet display is usually somewhere in between.

The site design template will then update or be updated automatically (by the purchase source or the person who built it for you) to accommodate whatever updates the software requires and whatever new devices are coming down the road.

On a computer it’s pretty much all one page, up front—pictures, description, sale details. On a phone, you may have to scroll way down to find most of the details.

The development of your site has to be responsive to the device displaying it, and your website design has to be visually pleasing and tell your story in an attractive and compelling manner.

Want to learn more about how this all works, and how you can harness the power of a responsive website? Join us for our next class on Responsive Websites—what are they, how do they work, how do they work for you!  I design awesome, amazing, affordable websites.  Contact me for a consultation, and we can take it from there. Your initial consultation, or Discovery Session’ is free.


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