In developing a fully functional website for your personal project or e-commerce venture, what would be the most important thing on your checklist? Many people might think a catchy domain name or SEO optimization, forgetting about the importance of accessibility and responsiveness.
People use different screens to access the internet—from a 5-inch phone to a 17-inch laptop to a 49-inch desktop. Due to the vast differences in screen sizes of mobiles (and tablets) and desktops (and laptops), the same web design cannot be used for each type of device.
If the same website is used for desktop and mobile versions, it can slow down the loading time of web pages on mobile devices since desktops often have faster processors. At the same time, a website’s desktop version, which is made for larger screens, can look cluttered on a mobile phone or tablet, resulting in a bad visual experience for the user.
Responsive web design helps solve problems like this by creating different website versions to accommodate different screen sizes. It can speed up webpages and create a more consistent visual experience, allowing an enhanced user experience.
To fully understand how responsive websites make your business more accessible, you’ll want to get to know the ins and outs of what they are and how they function. This article will take you through the basics of responsive web design.
What is responsive web design?
The term responsive web design (RWD) refers to an approach where developers create websites to respond to the user environment. RWD focuses on aspects like screen size, platform, and orientation.
Essentially, developers code these websites in a way that allows for an alternate UI screen that is activated through screen size and browser triggers.
For example, the long-winding sidebars and navbars on the desktop versions of most responsive sites become drop-down lists on smaller screens such as mobile phones, tablets, and Kindles. Other features, like the testimonial carousel and homepage display grid, are also redesigned to suit multiple devices and screen sizes.
Responsive website design works to enhance the usability of a website and make it more accessible to users. How different elements are displayed on a screen can influence user behavior. For instance, an abruptly organized homepage can confuse users, discouraging them from exploring the platform further. This situation could increase bounce rates and affect website sales, as users leave the website before making a purchase.
A well-designed, responsive website can help solve problems like this. We have curated a list of impressive responsive web design examples for you to draw inspiration for your project. All of these examples are currently live and employed by full functioning and, in most cases, multimillion dollar businesses. In other words, they’re the very best!
It is no coincidence that our first entry on the list is a web development company with a fully equipped UI and UX design team dedicated to delivering the best web pages to their clients. Humaan is a web development firm located in Perth, Australia. What makes Humaan’s website an excellent case study for responsive web design is its homepage’s sleek and elegant, yet highly intelligent, design.
A striking feature of desktop and mobile versions of Humaan’s website is its intelligent use of white space.
Humaan desktop version
Humaan’s desktop homepage starts with a simple floating navigation bar occupying the top-right corner. This placement follows standard conventions and establishes a sense of familiarity with the user right from the beginning.
Upon scrolling further down the page, the navbar turns into a small floating icon (the company logo) that occupies a small corner of the page. This icon smartly doubles as a hamburger menu. Unsure what that is? It sounds a bit funny—we get it! However, it’s just the hamburger-shaped button that unfolds further into a navigation section or menu.
This feature helps Humaan avoid having a full navbar loom over the users’ screens when they scroll through the page, and replaces it with a small, more space-efficient button.
The promotional video and blog thumbnails (all responsive images) that follow the navbar are arranged in sleek 2x1 grids on the desktop page. Each thumbnail is displayed as an individual floating object with adequate padding to give the website a sleek feel. The page finally ends with relevant contact details displayed in a 3x1 grid at the bottom. These flexible grids are customized and controlled using breakpoints—fundamental design elements used to control pixels in CSS bootstrap.
Humaan mobile version
The mobile version of the site adapts to the space-limited environment by placing the navigation bar below the initial page graphics. This helps adjust the navigation bar on a smaller page while still keeping it instantly accessible. The already space-efficient floating icon continues to occupy the top-right corner of the screen in the mobile version. If you’re thinking of building a website but have a lot of information to display, consider replicating this sort of design.
The mobile page displays promotional video and blog thumbnails (all responsive imgs) and contact cards, in simple 1x1 grids. These grids help the page display all of its content without having to shrink the video or blog thumbnails, which would substantially reduce their appeal. This design format is particularly helpful if you have a product-led company or website.
Dropbox is a candidate on our list because of its utility-centric, mobile-first design approach. Dropbox is a software-centered company headquartered in San Francisco, California.
Dropbox desktop version
Dropbox’s homepage starts with a standard navigation bar at the top. Every button on the bar doubles as a hover-over drop-down menu, which helps include all necessary user shortcuts into one highly accessible area, without overcrowding it with information. This responsive web design feature can let a company neatly give users access to information without cluttering the page.
The buttons on the top-right corner of the nav bar allow users to get contact information, get the mobile and desktop app, and sign in or sign up. The direct consumer CTA button “Get Started” is placed next to these buttons. It’s highlighted in blue, the same color as Dropbox’s logo, helping draw the user’s eye to it. Another CTA button “Find your plan” is placed in the middle of the homepage. It’s in the same shade as the “Get Started” button. Dropbox’s logo and CTA buttons stand out against the mostly black and white page.
This design aims to let users access information about Dropbox, such as its product, solutions, and pricing, in a user-friendly manner. Since Dropbox offers its solutions to many industries, it allows users from each industry to access the relevant section.
Dropbox mobile version
Dropbox’s mobile version exchanges this navbar with a simple pop-up menu button at the top right corner of the page. This button gives users access to a hovering navbar that contains drop-down lists for platform-wide shortcuts. The Dropbox icon at the top left of the mobile site doubles as a navigation button, leading users to the simple, responsive version of their desktop site. Its default mobile site, however, is completely different from this point on.
The mobile browser window starts with a direct consumer CTA organized in two fluid grids placed one below the other. The CTAs link to Dropbox’s two primary subscription models titled “For Work” and “For Personal Use.” Simple 1x1 grids advertise Dropbox’s numerous features and user benefits, and a brief section on partner integration follows. This design is useful if your product or service is segregated by industry and you have a different positioning for each. It lets the visitor see what is relevant to them.
The mobile site then displays flashbacks that directly link to payment portals for all available subscription models—“For Work,” “For Personal Use,” and “For Business.” It saves mobile users the trouble of navigating through the platform to check subscription prices and pay for them. Exchanging several chunks of user feature information for CTAs and direct payment links makes Dropbox’s mobile site more accessible for on-the-go users looking to purchase the product.
Developer collaboration platform GitHub follows a simple responsive web design that focuses on overall website attractiveness and user accessibility. GitHub is another big tech company headquartered in San Francisco, that and specializes in web hosting and version control using Git.
GitHub desktop version
GitHub’s desktop website has a standard navbar at the top left corner of the page where relevant buttons double as hover-over drop-down lists. The top right corner contains a small search bar and a sign-in and sign-up button—a common practice for most interactive user-based platforms. Following the established convention of giving the sign-in and sign-up options the topmost priority by placing them at the top right of the page helps make your website users feel more familiar with the UI and UX design.
GitHub separates the sign-in and sign-up buttons so that each set of users can click on the relevant button and navigate to the page that is most appropriate for them. Besides this, GitHub’s search-bar feature is also helpful since it allows users to browse through GitHub before deciding whether they want to sign up. This feature helps reduce friction during the sign-up phase since users get to see what value GitHub might offer them.
GitHub mobile version
The mobile website also keeps in line with standard conventions by replacing the navbar with a pop-up menu button at the top right of the page. The sign-up option is given priority over both search and sign-in buttons on the mobile page. If you’re growing at a rapid pace and have a lot of sign-ups each day, you should consider this.
The page displays a full-length sign-up bar followed by a simple flashcard panel with a CTA for a free GitHub trial account. Like most other websites on the list, GitHub prioritizes gaining new users and subscribers through its mobile site, leveraging the high accessibility of the medium.
The desktop site then advertises Github’s several user features through innovative pop-in flashcards. It also uses thumbnails programmed to appear with fade-in and slide-in transitions when the user scrolls to that part of the page. These design features make the website, and by extension the company, appear technologically sophisticated to the users.
The mobile site uses identical animated flashbacks but through terse 1x1 grids that make the most out of smaller display space.
The New York Times
The New York Times website makes for an interesting web design case study because it is modeled after a familiar real-world entity—a newspaper. The design template largely follows the established conventions of news design (complete with classic newspaper typography)—the process of arranging content in a newspaper according to relevance.
The New York Times desktop version
The desktop site starts with a brief CTA that advertises the annual subscription for digital issues of the Times. The New York Times masthead follows the subscription ad and doubles as a navigation bar for the different language-based versions of the website. It also displays key information about the weather and important stock index prices, continuing the practice of its physical newspaper.
The desktop version of the Times website displays all homepage stories in a variable news-design grid that changes according to the day’s stories. It’s done with the help of CSS bootstrap commands that automate UI formatting features like text-wrapping and cell and image padding. The site ends with an extensive footer that contains navigation buttons to different sections of the website and subsidiary content like videos, podcasts, and the Times store.
The New York Times mobile version
The mobile version of the site adapts to the space-limited environment by replacing the fixed CTA at the top of the page with a pop-up that is flashed briefly on the screen when users first enter the site. The navbar is replaced by a concise pop-up menu button at the screen’s top left corner.
The mobile version of the site uses simple media queries to replace its classic news design with 1x1 grids that display stories in descending order of importance and relevance. Expansive stories are smartly displayed on 1x1 grid carousels that can be swiped through, helping the publication display full-length stories on their mobile website without making the users scroll through an unreasonably long homepage.
The mobile page includes several small subscription CTAs once after every few stories. It ends with special navigation links to all their flagship daily games like Wordle, Spelling Bee, and the esteemed Times crossword puzzle. This makes them instantly accessible for mobile users who might, for example, play these games on their mobile screens during their daily commute.
Shopify’s approachable yet professional website design focuses on user accessibility, making for a good case study. An alternative to WordPress, Shopify is a multinational e-commerce site headquartered in Ottawa, Ontario.
Shopify desktop version
Shopify’s desktop version has a familiar UI and UX design, with a navbar on top of the page. All the buttons on the navbar have expandable drop-down menus users can initiate with a click. Each drop-down menu helps users find specific pages or features on the website without congesting the homepage. It’s a neat design, reducing clutter and letting users find their own feet.
Like most other interactive user-based platforms, the login and “start free trial” buttons are placed at the top right corners. A striking, full-length button below the navbar informs users about Shopify editions and prompts them to discover new features. On hovering over, it changes color, grabbing the user’s attention. Consider using different colors, fonts, and styles to attract users to areas that lead to higher conversion rates for you.
Shopify mobile version
While Shopify’s mobile version follows a similar UI and UX design to its desktop version, it uses a lighter color palette, creating the illusion of more open space on a compact screen. Something worth noting!
A concise pop-up menu replaces the buttons on the navbar. The pop-up menu button is at the top right of the page, a common practice for mobile websites. The button informing users about Shopify editions remains the same on the mobile version. Like the desktop version, the mobile version’s CTA is large with an easy-to-see button prompting users to sign up for a free trial with Shopify, making signing up with Shopify easy for users.
Get assistance from a responsive web designer
Responsive web design can help you elevate your website and make it more accessible no matter what kind of device is used to access it. It also allows you to optimize the user experience, include responsive images down to the last pixel, and ensure that your website is both lucid and attractive. Upwork is home to hundreds of certified web design experts that can help you make your website responsive.
The experienced professionals on Upwork can help you build a responsive website for your online business or personal project. You can pick a reference from any of our examples to use as inspiration, or any other websites you like, and have the designers customize your site to include those important UE components. Choose from the best freelance responsive web design professionals on Upwork.
And if you’re looking for freelance jobs, we have many companies that need your help. Sign up with us today!
Upwork is not affiliated with and does not sponsor or endorse any of the tools or services discussed in this article. These tools and services are provided only as potential options, and each reader and company should take the time needed to adequately analyze and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situation.
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