Whether commuting, laying on the comfort of your bed, waiting to be served in a coffee shop, or simply going through a normal day, with the rise of mobile technology, users can easily access and browse websites on their phones or tablets. Because of this flexibility, the mobile version of a website's look, feel, and usability can directly influence the user experience while browsing on a mobile device. So, one may ask - how can a website be desktop compatible while maintaining mobile friendliness? The key is responsive design.
A responsive website will handle the dynamic nature of different screen widths by automatically scaling and repositioning elements on the screen. Based on a user's screen size - ranging from large desktop monitors, small desktop monitors, tablets, phablets, and small mobile phones - a responsive website will "respond" and render elements accordingly (and where visually appealing to the user) regardless of the device. This is the secret to device optimization across the entire board. And here is where we utilize Twitter Bootstrap, a free and popular responsive framework, to attain such a goal.
The Bootstrap development framework was developed by two Twitter developers that wanted more consistency across internal tools. Since they used many different tools with different teams, the potential for inconsistencies and inefficiencies continued to grow and cause issues. They developed this framework to streamline the development process and create a better experience for programmers to create better products. Thus, Bootstrap was born!
The latest version of Twitter Bootstrap can be downloaded from their official site. Customizations such as base colors, widths, etc. are optional. Usually, the default files are all that's needed, but many choose to utilize a template to get started. This is the best way to get started if you are just testing the waters. If you are not a programmer, it is still neat to click around the site and see its capabilities.
The foundation of a responsive design is the grid system. The grid, which incorporates rows and columns, is the essence of how elements will reposition based on the screen's width. Imagine this scenario: Let's say there are 12 items displayed across in a straight row on a large desktop screen. When viewed on a small mobile phone, each of those items will be on their own line. This allows the user to simply scroll vertically to access each item, instead of zooming in and out or panning left and right.
Bootstrap's grid utilizes this same idea; it builds upon the idea of 12 columns per row. These can be created multiple ways, depending on when the element should respond and how wide the element should be. You can arrange these columns using predetermined grid splits that keep your information organized properly on the page. This ensures that a resizing of the screen will result in the rearranging of the grid rather than complete guesswork.
While Bootstrap comes with many different options right out of the box, coding an entire website can be a daunting task. That being said, this framework gives you complete control over creating a website that will not only be beautiful and customized to your needs, but also functional on any different screen the user might utilize.
Many people choose to pick one of a number of different pre-built Bootstrap themes online to get the full functionality of a Bootstrap theme without all of the development involved. These themes will generally be developed for many different content management systems so you can be sure to find one that fits your exact needs.
Bootstrap is a great way to get started with mobile responsive design if you are ready to make the leap into the mobile world.
So, what are you waiting for? Start making your responsive website today!
About the author
Alex Vilmur is a wizard at development and also trumpet. He once auditioned for The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, but found his passion for website development and Umbraco made it too hard to leave.