4 Pitfalls of Responsive Design

By Suzanne McKee

Responsive web design, mobile-first, Google algorithms—the list of technology that you need to stay current seems unending, and it can get a bit overwhelming trying to stay at the forefront of it all. Tech words aside, the end result is a simple concept—create an online presence where you can connect with customers and prospects from their device of choice.

In order to stay relevant, your company needs to be available and accessible where your customers are looking, whether it be on a full-sized desktop, a tablet, or a phone. Not only is responsive design critical for your customers, but Google has all but made it a requirement if you want your company to appear in their search results.

When moving from a static web design to responsive design, here are four pitfalls to avoid from a project management standpoint.

Pitfall #1: Phasing It In

In theory, it sounds like a good idea to focus on certain parts of your site first and then move on to others and approach the project in phases. In practice, going from a static design to a responsive design changes everything, so it is best to be prepared to tackle it all to prevent surprises and roadblocks along the way.

Think of static design like a fishbowl. The glass container creates a definite border that holds in the water, fish, and rocks. If you take away the container (responsive design) and the water can take any shape, the fish are flopping and the rocks are everywhere. In other words, when the contents can take any shape it changes more than just the look and feel of it, but the entire structure around your website, as well.

Instead, start off the project by detailing out every section and design element that will be affected, and make a plan before you dive in to the redesign.

A few of the big elements to make sure you consider:

  • Header/navigation design
  • Footer design
  • Internal page layouts: Try to create a package of templates instead of having a unique design for every single page
  • Images: Be sure to keep aspect ratios and maximum sizes of images in mind to prevent stretching and image distortion.

Pitfall #2: Creating Your Desktop Design First

This is where mobile-first thinking comes in. It is so much easier to give something small more room than it is to cram something big into a tiny space. With that in mind, create a site that is appealing and user friendly at that smallest screen size first, and then build the design out so it works on larger screens, as well.

There are almost as many device sizes as there are people viewing them. Pick the size breaks (i.e., mobile phone, tablet, laptop, desktop) that will impact your customers most and then build out your designs utilizing those media sizes.

Pitfall #3: Going It Alone

It is critical to hire a web designer who is proficient in both UI (user-interface) concepts and coding best practices. You need someone on your team who truly understands how all of the responsive design elements interact with each other and who knows how to make a site that is both visually appealing and easy to navigate for your customers.

Between media queries, CSS, HTML, JavaScript, etc., it is critical to have an expert working for you to achieve a website that looks great and functions even better.

Pitfall #4: Testing Only on Your Device of Choice

Testing your site needs to be inherent throughout the entire process to make sure that your perfect site is truly perfect for everyone. Different browsers interpret code differently, and some really innovative coding options are not compatible with all browsers.

You can’t just test on your own computer and phone and assume that it will work the same for everyone. You will need to enlist a team of people using all different kinds of technologies to make sure that your site is working like it is supposed to for everyone.

There are different developer tools available on every browser that can help to simulate the experience from different devices, but to thoroughly test, people should be using actual devices to make sure you aren’t missing something.

It may seem too overwhelming to take the plunge into responsive design, but with some good advance planning and getting the right team on board, the project can actually be fun. Most importantly, it will encourage you to dig a little deeper into what your customers need and how to best provide it to them—a win for everyone.

Suzanne McKee is Director of Marketing at ePlantSource in Westminster, Colorado. Email: [email protected].

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