Product Management

#Responsive versus fixed width website design – does it really matter? Top 5 tips.

In short, yes. These days the internet is accessed through a plethora of devices: desktop, laptop, tablet, mobile and even smart watch. So what do you do when it comes to designing your website and which device do you design for? The majority of internet traffic is migrating towards tablet and mobile – Facebook apparently has more than 70% of its access from mobile devices – so you need to design for them all, and the only way to successfully do that is to design responsively.  

1. Start with the user and the content
Content, content, content. Who are you building the site for and what types of content do they expect to see? How are you planning on connecting your content so that your user can find more content that is relevant to their needs? Think about the types of use cases that will be involved and what that means for your content length, style and tone.  

2. Make the decision to design responsively, not adaptively
True responsive design continues to change even after the page has loaded – unlike adaptive which loads the size of page most suitable for the device size it believes you are on. You can see this in action by dragging your browser window to make it bigger and smaller – if the site resizes, it’s responsive; if it doesn’t, it’s adaptive.  

3. Mobile First
Do the most difficult thing first, so now that you’ve established your content hierarchy, work out how that’s going to fit on the smallest possible screen size. What will it look like? Is it logical? Will someone be able to use it while they walk? Crack the mobile layout and the others will flow way more easily.  

4. Test and Roll
This should really go without saying, but make sure you’re testing your design, not just for functionality, but for usability. Don’t design for an end state that a user might not want. Technology moves too quickly now to do end state designs for every screen of a site, so do the design as part of an agile development process. You’ll thank me later.  

5. Make sure your designers and developers communicate constantly
A great design is fabulous, but if the effort to do that outweighs the business value associated with that feature then you need to revise the design – and vice versa. If the feature has masses of business value, make sure you tell the designers so that they can spend a bit of extra time on it.

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