Responsive Web Design: Learn the Basics For Your Business

By Joseph Stark

If you’re running a business in 2014, you better be using the power of the Internet in some capacity to widen your reach and increase your sales. Although having a website that showcases your products and services is a good start, it’s now time to take it a step further and optimize it so that people who view it on a mobile device don’t run into trouble.

With more people using their smartphones to shop online, your business doesn’t stand a chance to excel if it doesn’t take advantage of responsive web design. Here are some basic techniques to help you get started so your business doesn’t fall behind the times.

Getting to Know Responsive Web Design

Before we highlight some of the most common techniques used in responsive web design, let’s take a look at what it essentially is. Responsive web design aims to create a custom design that automatically adjusts the viewing experience to the user and his or her mobile device of choice. Its creator, Ethan Marcotte, aimed to create a design that solved an ongoing problem in a world of smartphones: to cut the inconsistencies that a web browser might show on a multitude of different mobile devices.

These days, though, phones aren’t the only mobile devices taking the market by storm. Small notebook computers and touchscreen tablets are also impacting how companies approach the design of their websites. Whether it’s a cell phone or a tablet, the spectrum of screen sizes and their resolutions is widening daily. Because creating a different version of your business’s website to match the needs of each device isn’t practical, embracing responsive web design becomes that much more important if you want to reach a wider audience (and make more money, of course).

Using Fluid Grids in Your Website’s Design

The first technique of responsive web design involves the use of fluid grids. Liquid layouts allow website pages to expand according to the screen resolution of the device that’s accessing it — as opposed to fixed width layouts. Fluid grids take the “liquid layout” concept a few steps further by taking proportions into account, instead of only basing the design on arbitrary percentage values and rigid pixels. What this means is that a website’s layout will adjust to squeeze on a small screen or stretch on a big one, resizing itself so that it doesn’t lose quality or look disproportionate.

For more information about fluid grids and how to incorporate them, check out this detailed tutorial explaining them.

Understanding Media Queries

The second technique of responsive web design involves the use of CSS3 media queries. Basically, these media queries allow you to gather data about your website’s visitors and use it conditionally to apply different CSS styles. To learn more about what CSS is and the different styles associated with it, check out this informative website.

With CSS media queries, you’ll be able to customize your website — such as adjusting the width of your layout to match the needs every device that accesses it — using the data you’ve collected and the HTML tools provided.

For more information about media queries and how to use them properly, check out this detailed tutorial explaining them.

Taking Advantage of the Resources Available

Understanding and implementing responsive web design isn’t easy (and we certainly can’t comprehensively cover it in a brief article). But the resource links already provided and the following ones will help you on your journey to build a better website that not only offers a better experience to your customer base, but boosts your business’s traffic and sales.

Responsive web design doesn’t have to feel like an obstacle; its purpose is to help you and your business flourish.

Image via Flickr by Chasing Daisy

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Joseph Stark
Joseph Stark is a freelance writer, tech geek and world traveler.

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