6 Common Responsive Web Design Mistakes Website Owners Should Avoid

by | Dec 19, 2023 | webdesign tips | 0 comments

In the dynamic world of web design, where every pixel matters and every click counts, the concept of responsive web design is paramount. Website owners, especially those who design their websites themselves, often face the challenge of making their creations look and function flawlessly across various devices. However, it’s in the pursuit of that perfect design that many stumble into common pitfalls.

If you’re a website owner who takes the DIY approach to web design, this article is your go-to guide for steering clear of six frequent mistakes that can impact your site’s responsiveness and user experience.

From text containers breaking on small screens to the image optimization techniques, we’ll explore these missteps and provide practical solutions to help you elevate your web design game.

So, let’s dive into the fascinating realm of responsive web design, and make sure your website shines on every device.

1. Using Fixed Heights in CSS for Text Containers

It’s a mistake I’ve come across several times on various websites: setting fixed heights for containers that hold text. This practice can lead to some undesirable consequences.

When you specify a fixed height, the text inside those containers may overflow ungracefully on smaller devices like tablets and, even worse, on phones. On the flip side, if the screen size increases, the box might appear empty, far from the effect you want to achieve.

What You Can Do:

Instead of defining a fixed height for text containers, it’s better to use padding and margins to create space around the text, allowing it to adapt naturally to the content’s needs. This approach ensures that text remains legible and appropriately structured on screens of various sizes.

However, there are specific situations where you DO need a defined height, such as the hero section on a presentation website. In such cases, use viewport height units (vh) with care. Alternatively, consider the more recent options: lvh (large viewport height units), svh (small viewport height units), and dvh (dynamic viewport height units). I wrote “with care” because you should always remember to test how your text appears on smaller phone screens, and be ready to adjust the text size if necessary.

2. Not Optimized Heavy Media Files

With the proliferation of high-resolution cameras on smartphones and professional-grade digital photography equipment, it’s no wonder that website owners often want to showcase their images in all their megapixel glory. However, this seemingly harmless act of uploading multi-megapixel photos can come with a hefty price – one that affects your website’s speed, user experience, and even your search engine rankings.

The issue lies in the fact that large images and videos can dramatically slow down your website, particularly on mobile devices where internet speed and data usage can be constrained. Consider this scenario: a visitor accesses your website via a data roaming service with limited data or costly usage rates, and your oversized images are devouring their precious data. Or, think about the bandwidth strain on your website when a post suddenly goes viral.

But don’t fret; there are practical steps you can take to ensure your images are crisp and clear without compromising your website’s performance. One approach is to upload images at the largest size needed with precision. For instance, if your image is displayed in three columns, each 300 pixels wide, but on a tablet, it’s a single column of 800 pixels, then upload the image at 800 pixels – not a pixel more. Additionally, you can explore responsive image techniques or employ image optimization plugins, plus the magic of lazy loading. Some WordPress themes, like Divi, have responsive image functionality enabled by default, and you can easily integrate lazy loading scripts through optimization or caching plugins, such as LiteSpeed Cache.

By taking these steps, you’ll strike the perfect balance between stunning visuals and lightning-fast website performance.

3. Overreliance on Frameworks and Prebuilt Templates

Frameworks and prebuilt templates offer a tempting shortcut in the web design journey, promising rapid development and time savings. However, the allure of a quick fix can lead to a detrimental overreliance on these ready-made solutions. While in certain situations just perfect, most often this approach can eventually backfire when the real world reveals its demands.

In practice, websites often require modifications to align with unique branding and custom functionality needs. As changes accumulate, the initial template is transformed beyond recognition, sometimes resulting in doubled code (code to do the design, code to undo the design and code to redo the desired design) causing sluggish performance. The process becomes akin to dismantling and reassembling an intricate puzzle, with each adjustment causing a cascade of bugs to resolve.

When needing something really unique, or out-standing, the solution is to resist the allure of prebuilt templates and instead opt for a more elegant, tailor-made design. By doing so, you ensure that your website remains clean, efficient, and adaptable, without the unnecessary baggage of excessive code.

4. Inefficient Use of CSS Media Queries

Effectively employing CSS media queries is vital for creating a responsive design. Inadequate use of these queries can result in unintended or broken layouts on certain devices and pose challenges in maintaining your evolving website.

Specifically, media query mistakes can manifest in two ways.:

Firstly, omitting essential rules to address specific screen sizes can lead to incomplete responsiveness.

Alternatively, overloading your code with an excessive number of rules can create complexity and future update difficulties. To navigate this, it’s advisable to follow a singular approach *, either “desktop first” (beginning with higher resolutions and max-width media queries) or “mobile first” (commencing with smaller resolutions and min-width media queries).

* There’s only one exception: a media query to handle exceptionally large screens for a “desktop-first” approach and vice versa for “mobile-first” design.
Should you choose desktop-first or mobile first approach, that’s a debate. While it is true that the mobile traffic is increasing, your site should be prepared for everyone. In the practice of web design is often easier to start with a complex desktop design and simplify it as needed (e.g. making fewer columns), rather than attempting to complicate a mobile design.
The point is to have some order in there, and let the cascade in cascade style sheets flow correctly. While mastering the art of writing fewer queries and rules requires experience, the key is to ensure comprehensive coverage of all resolutions, allowing optimized code to naturally emerge by practice.

6. Last but not the least: Inadequate Testing on Diverse Browsers and Devices

Website owners may fall into the trap of assuming that their websites will function uniformly across all browsers and devices. Neglecting the critical step of thorough testing on a variety of platforms is a common mistake. In reality, websites can behave differently across different browsers and devices, leading to a bad user experience.

The consequences of inadequate testing can range from minor layout glitches to more serious functionality issues. Visitors using less popular or older browsers may encounter unexpected challenges while navigating your site. Additionally, the growing assortment of devices with varying screen sizes and resolutions demands comprehensive testing to ensure a seamless user experience for everyone. By investing the time to test on different browsers and devices, you can uncover and address compatibility issues, ensuring your website functions as intended and maintains its professional image across the digital landscape.


Remember that while web design can seem like a daunting task, the journey is equally rewarding. By heeding the lessons learned from these common mistakes, you can forge a more seamless, user-friendly, and professional digital presence. Whether you’re just beginning your web design journey or seeking to improve an existing site, keep these insights in mind, and your website will shine brightly on every device, captivating audiences and achieving the responsiveness and aesthetic excellence you desire. If the process proves too time-consuming, consider seeking the assistance of a professional web designer who can bring your vision to life efficiently and effectively.