This is the third post in a series about Responsive Web Design, described in plain language from a front end designer.
Ok, so we’ve discussed why responsive web design is an excellent solution for our websites. Then we dug a little deeper into how it actually works. Today we want to share our 20 favorite responsively designed websites and why we think they’re so great.
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I love this site. I really do. Smashing takes advantage of horizontal screen real estate like few responsive sites do. Go ahead expand your browser window out as far as your screen allows and it just maximizes the space without feeling cluttered. Furthermore, the strength of the layout and menu structure does not degrade at smaller screen sizes. Nicely done.
Clean layout, beautiful photography and playful iconography made me like this site immediately on my first visit. It’s a joy to look at and navigate on any device and if you’re a foody looking for scrumptious, healthy recipes it may be love at first site.
Type designer, Jan Tschichold once said, ‘Simplicity of form is never a poverty, it is a great virtue.’ The simple layout and understated menu and graphic elements juxtaposed against beautiful fluid images communicate that excellence in form and function are givens when working with this architecture studio. This site just says ‘good design’ whether I’m viewing it on my iPhone or my iMac.
If you haven’t check out Sphero, you should. It’s an amazing robotic ball gaming system for IOS and Android devices. But I’m not reviewing their product, just there site. A recent web design trend is the use of background photos that flood the browser window. Sphero does this well. The abstract product photos with a grid overlay don’t distract from the important content. I like the permanent menu and footer bars on my desktop, but appreciate how the footer moves to make room for more important content on my iPhone. Overall, the site is intuitive and attractive. An excellent example that responsive design done well looks great on any size screen.
It might be the conspicuous green frog that causes me love this site. Either way, it’s worth resizing your browser window just to see him change size, shape and color. But seriously, this is a polished responsive site. The breakpoints correspond well with the layout requirements and the result is a sharp looking site that does not degrade at any size. The main menu always looks good even when those sweet little icons go away to make room on smaller screens.
The Grey Goose site shows that designing responsively does not limit our designs to columns of fluid text and images on solid backgrounds. The sky is still the limit with what we can do responsively. Beautiful photography, parallax scrolling, intuitive navigation and refined typography combine to create a site that is as equally functional and attractive on my smart iPhone as it is my iMac. This list is not in order of our preference, but if it was I think Grey Goose would be at the top.
With a name like “New Adventures In Web Design,” one would expect a responsive site for this web design conference. I think my favorite aspect of this site is the use of fluid typography. Notice how the menu, headline and body text resize subtly to achieve optimal legibility on all devices. Good design is all about the details and this site has the details dialed in.
Websites in the higher education space are not necessarily known for being on the leading edge of design trends. So discovering the Lancaster site was a nice surprise. I appreciate its simple, modern, non-trendy look and feel. In spite of it’s large amount of content, it’s as easy to navigate on my iPhone as it is on my iMac.
Nick La’s blog is a wealth of information and resources for any designer or front end developer. But that’s not why it’s in our list. The great content is accompanied by subtle texture, beautiful illustration and–thanks to its responsive nature–is easily accessible no matter what device you fancy.
Though this site is not fluid, it has well structured layouts for any device class. Where many large responsive websites omit content for smaller screen sizes, London & Partners keeps it all, maximizing accessibility for mobile users. This is a good reminder that responsive design is an excellent solution for large and small site alike.
Oliver Russell has done a good job of building a site that responds well on mobile devices while keeping the integrity of the design in tact. I appreciate the shallow and straight forward content structure. My eyes are drawn to the most important sales points and I can access nearly all that I want to know without leaving the homepage. Refreshingly simple compared to the laborious, text heavy website of other marketing firms. One complaint: I would like to see the site expand beyond width of 960 pixels on larger monitors.
Ryan is product designer at Facebook, but has invested in a personal portfolio site that is a cut above the norm. Well branded and brilliantly responsive, Ryan’s site is a thing of beauty on any screen.
Jessica’s lettering and illustration rocks and so does her site. Seriously, I can’t help but smile when I look at it. It is simple and elegant and delightfully fluid. Oh, and for good measure she through in three additional themes. One of which is “Teen Girl Mode”, replete with rediculously distracting animated gifs and a hideous cat illustration (Just click on the little heart in the upper right corner).
Maybe it’s the friendly King Trident mascot, but this happy little site makes me want to download the Fork cms straightaway, or at least “try the demo”. To increase mobile load times the CSS omits the fun header illustrations at smaller sizes. Overall, site reformats and displays nicely on a variety of display ports.
Ethan coined the phrase, ‘Responsive Web Design’ in 2010, so it comes without surprise that his website is responsive. Ethan’s belief in articulate and intelligent design is expressed in a site that is straight and to the point without extraneous decoration.
This t-shirt shop site stretches and shrinks to fill any size view port with photos of their hip graphic t’s. Fluid images and type make this site a joy to browse on any size device. One complaint: I think the menu could be smaller for use on smartphones. Currently it takes up an unnecessary amount of valuable screen space on my iPhone.
Trent’s site is an excellent example of fluid type. On a large monitor the text size is slightly bigger for increased readability, whereas the text shrinks to achieve comfortable line lengths and legibility on my iPhone. I also really like the simple block print style illustrations Trent includes in his articles.
This is the second post in a series about Responsive Web Design, described in plain language from a front end designer.
In our last post I wrote about three reasons responsive web design is something you should know about. We discussed the problems associated with the traditional method of designing a desktop and mobile version of a website.
Essentially, there are just too many mobile devices hitting the market to tailor our websites to view well on them all. Nearly every device released has a different screen size and resolution than it’s predecessor. It simply doesn’t make sense for companies big and small to spend the time and money to create a bespoke web experience for each device in the ever expanding line-up.
The thing I like about problems or challenges is that–if we let them–they make us better people and create space for innovation and solutions that may otherwise never be discovered.
Designer and developer Ethan Marcotte was instrumental in solving this problem of device compatibility. He introduced the term, ‘Responsive Web Design’, in his 2010 article in A List Apart. If you haven’t read it yet, you need to… Right after you read this article, of course!
In actuality, the problem is still being solved and responsive web design methods, tools and standards are still being developed and refined. But in a nutshell, here’s how responsive web design works.
Responsive design uses a CSS3 feature called media queries. Media queries inspect the characteristics of the device and adjusts specific website styles accordingly. E.g. A media query may ask if the horizontal resolution of the device is equal to or less than 480px. If the answer is yes, the CSS may adjust the layout into a single column.
Here’s a few things we can do using media queries:
In essence responsive web design “responds” to our devices and adapts to create an enjoyable user experience. And this happens in real time as you turn your device or resize your browser window.
When programming a responsive website, developers set ranges of media query values to target specific device classes (i.e. smartphone, tablet, desktop/laptop, high res desktop/laptop). Each range of values activates a unique set of CSS code to construct the web page to view optimally on the target device. A breakpoint is the transition between media query values.
Here’s a simple example: If the available browser width is at least 780px the website may display menu bar that spreads across the top of the page. However, if the available width is less than 780px the css may restructure the menu bar into two rows or move the links into a drop down menu. When you resize you browser window below 780px wide you’ll see the menu adjust. This transition is a breakpoint.
To see this in action, check out this site we created for the Capital Area Food Bank. As you resize your browser window you’ll see the menu, slider and other elements adjust as you reach these break points.
Currently there are no widely adopted best practices for defining break points. In my opinion break points should loosely reflect device classes and be led by the design of the website. The goal is to create a site that looks good on any device and sticking to predefined break points won’t always accomplish this.
Designers have used grids for decades when designing layouts for print and this is true of good web designers as well. Traditionally we think of grids in terms of columns and rows with fixed widths, heights and gutter sizes. We may build a website using a 960px grid divided into 12 columns measuring 40px wide with 20px gutters. This works well for fixed width sites where the content is always the same width.
When we are designing a responsive website, we must think of column and gutter widths as a percentage of a maximum available width. This means the grid measurements expand and contract as needed, as does the content within them. See the difference between a fixed and fluid 960 grid on this site by selecting “Fluid 12-column” and then “Fixed 12-column” from the menu bar.
As web designers, we must change the way we think about web design. We’ve already learned that our print design skills are valuable, but not totally adequate, when it comes to web application. However, many of us design fixed width sites with a white knuckled hold on every graphic nuance. This is the control we were used to with print.
To create responsively designed websites we need to loosen our grip and accept the fact that we no longer have pixel perfect control over every element of the design that we’ve so painstakingly created. This doesn’t mean we compromise design quality. When we adjust our approach and thoughtfully consider how our designs will adapt across a wide variety of devices, responsive design means we can craft sites that look beautiful and function well no matter what devices our audience may prefer.
Okay, that’s as deep as we’ll dive for now. Stay tuned for our final post in this series, where we’ll share our 20 favorite responsive websites.