If you own a website or ecommerce store, responsive design is a must, because nowadays a lot of people use their phones to browse the internet. Due to the different sizes of screens, your site needs to adapt to fit each one correctly. 

For example, what looks good on a computer screen might not look right on a mobile device because of their different screen sizes. But what is a responsive web design, and why is it important? This guide will tell you everything you need to know.

What is Responsive Web Design

Definition of Responsive Web Design

Responsive web design is about making websites look good and work well on different devices, like computers, tablets, and cell phones – no matter the device width. Simply, it involves the layout and content of a webpage adjusting to fit different screen sizes without removing important details.

It can be split into two terms: responsive and web design. Web design involves creating user interfaces that appeal to users. At the same time, responsive means the user interfaces should respond accordingly to users based on the browser size, screen size, the user’s device (iPad, mobile smartphone, laptop), and orientation.

Responsive web design requires you to consider a flexible layout, flexible grids, and the application of CSS media queries. Business owners need media queries to avoid building separate websites for mobile or non-mobile visitors, which is time and resource-consuming. (Hence why building a responsive website using only HTML elements (Hypertext Markup Language)  code is significantly more difficult).

This type of web design ensures you maintain similar content across devices, making your website easier to manage and providing a consistent user experience.

Importance of Responsive Web Design

Importance of Responsive Web Design

We live in a world where it’s almost impossible not to use a user interface daily, so it is a non-negotiable to build responsive web design. This prevents potential customers from leaving a website due to frustration from unresponsive website design. In addition, Google added mobile-friendliness to its ranking factors for its search engine algorithm.

The following are the extended benefits of responsive design:

  • Growing Mobile Usage: With the increased rate of smartphone usage in the Malaysian userbase, it’s critical to create a website that works well on mobile devices and other small screens.
  • Search Engine Rankings: As mentioned, modern browsers and search engines like Google prioritize mobile-friendly websites in their rankings, so it is essential to consider them for ranking.
  • User Expectation: Modern users expect a seamless experience across all devices. A non-responsive site can frustrate users and lead to higher bounce rates.
  • Future Scalability: Responsive design guarantees your website can scale new device sizes and screen resolutions as they arise in the market.

You can build a responsive website with a non-code site builder without hiring a designer. A responsive web design ensures similar content across the page per device.

Key Components of Responsive Web Design

When building a product, it is necessary to sketch the features you want the product to have. At the same time, you may also list things you don’t like this product to have. The same goes for web design.

It’s essential to have a list of components you want your site to have to ensure it looks and works great.

Below, we will review the five key page elements when creating a responsive web design:

  • Navigation: Usually for wide screens, the site navigation consists of the home icon, the About section, the Contact Us page, the drop-down menu and other sections on the website. In the mobile and nonmobile view, the navigation is placed differently.
  • Columns: Regardless of the screen width or height, a modern responsive design should be able to scale screens and the browser window, regardless of browser type.
  • Calls to action (CTA): Call to action plays a vital role in guiding user interaction and navigation. The CTA buttons should be resized when switching between different platforms for a website to be responsive.
  • Branding: Branding is an essential factor that contributes to unifying users’ experience.
  • Padding and White Space: Proper and white spacing is essential for readability and visual appeal to users. Responsive design tackles clustering and inconsistency issues faced by a non-mobile-friendly layout. 

The lack of white spaces and adequate padding makes everything feel crowded and misaligned, leading to poor user experience. Responsive web design ensures that information is presented consistently and visually appeals across different screen sizes.

Advantages of Responsive Web Design

Managing different versions of your website for all devices has been stressful and prone to inconsistencies for years. That’s why responsive design was developed in the first place.

It’s about making a single update to your website faster, reflecting across multiple sites.

There are more benefits, which you will find below:

  • Enhances User Experience: Thanks to responsive web design, users will have a better experience and user interface because everything works well with their page’s dimensions, and they don’t have to zoom in or out to increase or reduce the font size on the screen.
  • Serves Mobile Users: Statistics have shown that more website traffic comes from mobile users, so responsive design ensures you are not missing out on sales from them. Find out what percentage of customers visit your site more. If mobile users are lower, then it is likely your website isn’t fully responsive.
  • Easier Maintenance: Managing a responsive website across multiple screens is more straightforward than managing two websites. Focusing on one site allows you to spread efforts to marketing, customer service, and other essential aspects of your business.
  • Avoids Duplicate Content: Creating two different sites will make duplicate content, which could prevent your site from ranking, as Google will not index pages with the same content.
  • Lowers Bounce Rates: Bounce rate is one factor affecting your ranking. A lower bounce rate shows that your website is relevant and has a great user experience. A responsive website design leaves room for visitors to explore more pages. There are very few examples of successful modern ecommerce websites that don’t cater to mobile users.
  • Better Localization: In Malaysia, having multiple language versions of your website can be necessary for many businesses. As different fonts have varying sizes and logic, a responsive website can provide an equally seamless experience to all of your target audiences.

Additionally, it is easier to increase the conversion rate when you have successfully dropped the bounce rate and improved loading time.

How Responsive Web Design Works

Web developers can make a design compatible and responsive to different screen sizes, orientations, resolutions, color capabilities, and other user device characteristics through CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). Earlier, we discussed how the viewport meta tag and the media queries work to make a website’s design responsive.

Below is how to discover if your website is responsive:

  • Go to your website.
  • Press Ctrl + Shift + I to open Chrome DevTools.
  • Press Ctrl + Shift + M to toggle the device toolbar
  • View your website from a mobile, tablet, or large desktop monitor to see if it is responsive.

If you have an ecommerce website, you may also consider using responsive ecommerce website templates to make sure your store is fully responsive and is available to all mobile users.

Responsive Design vs. Adaptive Design

Responsive Design and Adaptive Design are two ways to make websites fit well on different screens. On one hand, responsive design is about adjusting a site to the user’s viewport width and height, while adaptive design is about creating specific layouts for other devices.

The big difference is how they adjust layouts. A responsive design adapts to any screen, while adaptive design makes separate responsive layouts for each device, giving more control over the responsive page’s appearance.

On the other hand, the adaptive design typically involves creating several distinct layouts for multiple screen sizes. Unlike responsive design, where layouts are fluid, adaptive design often has fixed layouts designed for specific screen sizes. The following are screen dimensions adaptive website design caters to: 1600px, 1200px, 960px, 760px, 480px, and 320px.

Thanks to adaptive design, UX designers can control how the web page will look because each layout has been intentionally built for the designated browser width.

Best Practices for Responsive Web Design

Just like you need to include some key components in your designs, some rules guide how you create the designs. Ensure that the website navigation is easy to use and has clear options. 

In addition, use typography and font sides that are easy to read. It’s also essential to prioritize fast loading speed and reduce the volume of HTTP requests. Below, you can find more information about the three central responsive web design best practices to follow. 

Use Media Queries

CSS media queries are essential to defining the breakpoints for a website. Breakpoints in web design are the predetermined screen sizes where your website content and layout will automatically adjust to ensure readability and usability. This is achieved by setting a min width and max width property.

Simply put, it’s the screen size where a website will become responsive to provide a great user experience. A few examples of commonly used sizes are 480px, 768px, 1024px, and 1280px. When building a site, a developer can control primary attributes by choosing multiple media query breakpoints (mobile-tablet-desktop).

Implement Fluid Layouts

Fluid layout is the most essential part of responsive web design. You can use CSS properties like CSS Grid and Flexbox to achieve such a layout. 

See more on that below:

  • CSS Grid: This two-dimensional layout is a helpful system for creating responsive web designs. It makes it easy to define rows and multiple columns in a grid for more flexible layouts and then place and align content within those fluid grids cells. With the flexible grid layout, you can easily rearrange your website when used with multiple media queries by establishing a minimum width and maximum width value.
  • CSS Flexbox: Flexbox is a one-dimensional layout system for creating flexible and responsive web designs like a CSS Grid layout.

Flexbox lets you create a versatile box where you can neatly line up and space out items in a row or column. It’s excellent for straightforward designs where you must organize things in a straight line, stacked or side-by-side in a multiple-column layout. It makes adjusting the gaps and how these items line up simple, whether you’re working on a horizontal or vertical setup.

Make Images Responsive

Since images can be easily distorted or cropped, you should ensure they are responsive images (fluid images). One of the best ways to do this is to use SVG images that won’t be affected when resized, unlike JPG and PNG images.

Use high-quality compressed images on the site and consider lazy loading techniques, where heavy content on pages will load only when users request them. Besides that, the infinity scroll technique is an excellent way to prove user experience on mobile devices, as it allows content only to load when users scroll horizontally or vertically.

Common Responsive Web Design Mistakes to Avoid

Making a fully responsive site is not as straightforward as it sounds. Many make simple mistakes that can mess up the user experience, especially on mobile. 

We’re talking about everything from not paying enough attention to the mobile version to making your site slow because of oversized images and even hiding the cool stuff people return for. 

Below are six common responsive web design mistakes to avoid:

  • Neglecting Mobile Versions: Most designers are used to building web pages for desktop versions first. That’s because the first set of websites that came into the world were desktop versions of a certain width. However, more people have started using their mobile phones to browse the internet, creating a need for responsive mobile designs. This still does not change the fact that designers and developers prefer to design with the desktop-first or desktop-only mentality, where you have much more screen real estate.
  • Slow Load Times: There are several causes of slow load times, but one is not optimizing the image size for the different platforms. Images are used to attract people, but visitors won’t bother to check these photos if the site takes longer to load. Over 6% of people will not return to a site that lacks seamless experience, and when web pages render slowly, it’s considered a lack.
  • Hiding Content: Imagine visiting a website on the desktop for the first time and seeing a load of features, layout elements, and buttons that you find helpful. You bookmarked the site because you are going to need it again. So, one day, you were only with your phone and decided to log in to the site only to see all the content that made your experience seamless. It could lead to frustration as you could spend hours searching for it.
  • Forgetting Hand Gestures: Sometimes, designers may overlook hand gestures like tapping, swiping, pinching, and stretching when designing for mobile. This could be in the form of insufficient whitespace between elements to make tapping easier.
  • Using small Font Sizes: If a website design can’t adapt font sizes on different screens, the font may appear too small on smaller screens. Font size should increase or reduce based on the screen size, but it could end up being too large or tiny when it’s not adaptable, making it unreadable. Devs usually use relative units like percentages or EMs to create this effect.

Responsive typography and font size play a significant role in the user experience. Shorter and spaced copies should be considered for mobile devices, so a general mobile-first design approach in design is essential.

Tools and Frameworks for Responsive Web Design

Below, we’ve listed some top-notch tools and frameworks to make your website good-looking and responsive across all devices.

Let’s see them in detail:

  • Responsinator: You can check the compatibility of your website by inputting your URL into Resposinator. The days of checking compatibility one by one through multiple devices are finally ending. Resposinator will show you how your site appears simultaneously on each screen size.
  • Bootstrap: Bootstrap is a popular front-end framework with a responsive grid system and explanatory documentation. With Bootstrap, developers can create sleek and responsive websites. It has become a top choice for web designers.
  • Foundation: Foundation is another powerful front-end framework famous for its customization options. It has a responsive grid system, UI components, and JavaScript plugins, which help developers create unique and responsive designs.
  • Tailwind CSS: Tailwind CSS is a particular CSS framework that makes websites look good on screen. It’s great for those who aren’t proficient in CSS styles, giving developers separate style sheets without writing lots of code. With Tailwind, you can build excellent website designs without spending much time.

With these software solutions and tools, you can build responsive designs and check how they look before you launch your site.

Measuring the Health and Performance of Responsive Websites

It’s essential to measure how well your website performs across devices. Use tools like Google PageSpeed Insights to see how fast your site loads and metrics like Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), where a lower score is better. 

You can ensure that your responsive web design provides an excellent experience for everyone who visits.

To know if your site is fully responsive, have in mind the following factors:

  • Core Web Vitals: Your website vitals are the first thing to consider when checking if your site is truly responsive. These vitals include speed, stability, and responsiveness, which are not negotiable to improving your website user experience. Use Google PageSpeed Insights to check these metrics.
  • Design Elements: The design elements also determine your website performance. We have emphasized image optimization earlier. Use image file compression tools to compress flexible images and implement lazy loading, as most browsers and mobile browsers now support. (Make sure to double-check in the browser instructions).

In addition to that, avoid using lazy load above-the-fold images to prevent increasing your page’s LCP score.

Make sure to also include the <!DOCTYPE html> declaration at the beginning of your HTML document to indicate which version of HTML you’re using. This could help browsers render the website properly.


With responsive web design, anyone anywhere can access online content on various devices without experiencing any issues. Besides that, it helps improve user experience, search engine rankings, and time on site.Responsive web design is not just a trend, but a must-have weapon in your arsenal when creating websites that are effective and user-friendly across all devices.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the three basic things required for responsive web design?

Several factors make a website responsive, but these three are non-negotiable: a fluid grid, CSS media queries, and responsive visuals.

Why is responsive web design important?

Responsive design is crucial because it significantly enhances user experience by providing a consistent and accessible interface across all devices. This adaptability boosts engagement, increases the time spent on the site, and improves SEO rankings as search engines favor mobile-friendly websites.

How to test a website for responsiveness?

Testing a website for responsiveness involves checking how well it adapts to different screen sizes and orientations. This can be done through browser tools, online tools/software or through real device testing.