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Web design has always been driven by the size of the screen on which it is viewed. Concepts of web design used to be much simpler during the days when desktop computers were the only devices for web browsing. But the advent of mobile devices like laptop, smartphones and the use of television screens for browsing the internet has brought about a complete change in the way web design used to happen. The varying sizes of screens threw up the challenge of designing websites that are capable of being viewed with the same pleasure on all screens.
Not an easy task at all, especially when you consider the numerous screen sizes of smartphones and tablets. The biggest problem of traditional web designs when viewed on small screens is its long loading times and difficulties in navigation. But living up to the challenge of variable screen size, web designers have been able to add fluidity to their designs, making it suitable for viewing on all kinds of screen sizes. This is what has been known as RWD or responsive web design. In this article, the changes that have happened to web design and how it is reflected on small screens has been discussed in detail.
Two way change
The widespread use of mobile phones that triggered responsive web design has established a new relationship between web designers and mobile phone users. While it is the responsibility of the web designer to create designs that are compatible with varied screen sizes, mobile phone users are also changing their habits of interacting with websites. As more time is spent on mobile phones, users are getting habituated to the ways of navigating websites on small screens that they like to replicate on bigger screens of computers too.
Uncluttered page layout
The traditional concept of web design that involved several columns (usually three) with multiple links that fitted the computer screen appeared to be too clumsy for fitting into the small mobile screens. It required shedding of unwanted design elements so that the looks are trimmed and smart. The design features for mobile screens are being made simpler using content that is more focused along with bold graphical elements. The page layout is much cleaner that pleases the eye. The emphasis of web design now revolves around delivering information elegantly with ample clarity. Proper selection of images and colours enhance the appeal of websites.
Thinking about the user
Responsive web design does not only consider the fitment and appeal of the design on the small screens of mobile phones. The designer has also to take into consideration the limited span of attention that the user gives for liking or disliking a website. Patience is always less for mobile phone users who tend to get quickly frustrated by heavy designs with longer loading time. While it is easy to design websites, the way mobile technology have changed the way websites are viewed is also taken into consideration during web design. Web design had never been as much user-centric as it is now.
Multiple pages under wraps
With simple navigation being the guiding force behind responsive web design, the designer is faced with the challenge of including multiple pages in the website without compromising the feature of easy navigation. This is achieved by providing two navigation bars, with specific pages responding to each during hovering or scrolling. This helps to avoid the fear of navigation becoming cumbersome as some pages are hidden when some others are being viewed.
The thumb is widely used when navigating websites on mobile phones. The small screen size (as compared to a computer monitor) makes it quite challenging for users to tap on a text link that appears to be too tiny for the thumb. This has been overcome by providing navigation features that have wider contact areas that can be easily tapped with the thumb. The streamlined design features of mobile apps have been replicated in RWD. This is reflected in simpler designs of navigation bars, too.
Fitment of a page
The expectations of mobile phone users in viewing websites on mobile phones have raised the bar for web designers. It all began with the users’ preferring to see a complete webpage fit into the screen regardless of the screen size. This means that users did not like scrolling pages. But this was too tall an order that baffled web designers. The inherent limitation of web design could not make this possible and the fact has been accepted by mobile phone users. They have changed their attitude of viewing web pages on mobile devices and have accepted scrolling as a part of the activity. Wherever possible, designers are trying to offer single page design but even when it does not happen; well-organised content that is pertinent can be scrolled for complete viewing.
Design without frills
In order to create simple web designs for mobile phone screens, designers have to keep away from special effects like shadows and 3D images that can cause a cluttering effect of small screens. The special effects cannot be appreciated on small screens and can complicate matters. This gave rise to flat design that is clear and uncomplicated but packed with punch. The cleanliness of the interface is enhanced by flat design.
Striking a balance
While web design can be considered as the tip of the iceberg the appeal of the website largely depends on the quality of content that it displays. A perfect balance between imagery, which is the brainchild of web designers and the content determines the level of communication that influences viewer engagement. The success of responsive web design will largely depend on the kind of balance that it creates with the content.
The future of web design depends on the technological advancements of mobile phones. The way devices behave will determine how web design has to evolve to live up to the expectations of mobile phone users. It will be interesting to see, how web designers encounter the new challenges.