What Code Makes a WordPress Website Responsive?

You’ve been creating your WordPress website for months, maybe even years. You finally managed to get the design and code just right and now you’re incredibly happy with the way things look and work. You’ve been using the same few plugins to keep things simple and manageable. Every time you visit the site, you get a nice little boost of confidence because it works so well and looks so good.

But now something’s changed. Your website doesn’t look or behave the same way on every device. Instead of viewing the website on your computer’s screen, you’re now presented with a small version on your phone. While the design looks the same, the functionality might be a little different. And, although you made the exact same site a couple of months ago and it worked great on desktop as well, now it doesn’t. What happened?

The truth is, over the past two years, the codebase for WordPress has changed a lot. Designers have given it new life and new features, but underneath the scenes have been rigged by code wizards to adapt to all devices and display interfaces. And while the changes and additions are many and wonderful, they also bring a massive amount of complexity. If you’re anything like I was two years ago, you might be completely overwhelmed. What if I told you there was a way to bring back the simple viewing experience that made you so happy to create the website in the first place?

I want to introduce you to a new way of thinking about making your WordPress website responsive. Instead of thinking about how to make the website look good on a variety of devices, it’s time to focus on what makes the website work. And in order to do that, we need to take a step back and examine the code that makes it all happen.

Why Is Responsive Design Important?

If you’re reading this, I assume you’re either a designer, or at least a hobbyist who’s stumbled upon WordPress and is looking to dip their toe in. If you’re not already doing so, you should be. Designing websites for WordPress or any other content-based website platform is a fantastic way to gain experience and exposure. Not only do you get to exercise your creative muscles, but you also get to tinker with functionality, structuring, and visual appeal. It’s a fantastic way to hone your skills and, above all, have some fun.

While it’s fantastic to create a beautiful, functional website with WordPress, it’s also important to consider the reason why you’re doing it. After all, if you ever decide to sell the website or just want it to perform better, you’ll need to know what makes it work. Responsive design isn’t anything new. It was all the rage two years ago when everyone wanted to make their websites look as good as possible on all devices. Back then, developers would turn to JavaScript to make websites work on smaller screens; they would set up a little breakpoint where the website would perform some of its functions and, after that, some of the styling would be stripped away to create a more compact version for smaller screens. While this certainly made the websites look great on smaller screens, it also made them less usable on bigger ones. As before, designers had to make a choice: functionality or appearance. In most cases, they would chose appearance, meaning that they would sacrifice some of the functionality in order to make the website look gorgeous on all devices.

The problem is that, as great as the CSS techniques were back then, they’re still not perfect. Even the most skilled of developers make mistakes and, as a result, some of the functionality can be hit or miss. If you ever need to support a wide array of devices, or if you just want to make sure that some of the functionality works on all of them, you’re back to square one: you either have to find a work-around or wait for a developer to fix the mistake. And, although this might be acceptable for a hobbyist or a student, it’s certainly not an ideal situation when you’re trying to earn a living off of something. The fact is, code is complex, and mistakes happen. It would be best if you could simply avoid making those mistakes in the first place.

Responsive design was never meant to be a one-stop-shop for all of your web design needs. Instead, it’s a way of creating a cohesive look and feel across all devices while maintaining the functionality that makes the website special. It’s about creating the best user experience possible by not having to worry about whether or not the website will look the same on all devices. After all, the beauty of mobile technology is that it allows for everything to be personalized and adjusted to fit the user’s preferences. This certainly makes a massive difference in the end. And, as much as we love watching videos of cats playing the piano or dogs dancing, it’s best if they serve a purpose. Otherwise, it’s just a pleasant distraction. Which reminds me: I want to mention that I’m no longer averse to using videos in my copy, as long as they serve a clear purpose. You can certainly use them to add personality, an element of fun, or just to grab the attention of the viewer. Just make sure you have a clear call-to-action behind the entertaining video content.

What Code Is Responsive Design Made Of?

If you’re interested in creating a WordPress-based website but don’t have a lot of experience, it’s probably a good idea to take a step back and examine what you’re dealing with. Although WordPress is incredibly flexible, it’s also incredibly complex. And, as we’ve established, complexity can be both a blessing and a curse. Let’s take a look at the good and bad sides of complexity.

On the plus side, WordPress is incredibly easy to use. You simply need to choose a theme from the store, install it, and begin adding content. From there, all you have to do is visit the dashboard and begin tweaking settings, or installing new plugins to give your website a different vibe. The best part is that, for the most part, once you know what you’re doing, making changes is fairly straightforward. Chances are, even those with little to no coding experience will be able to understand and implement basic changes to their site. This makes WordPress such a versatile tool for those willing to put in the effort.

On the downside, as wonderful as WordPress is, it’s also incredibly complex. This is mostly due to the fact that it was originally created to be a full-functioning blog platform, meaning that it needed to have all the bells and whistles. As a result, over the years, it’s grown to include a staggering number of features, many of which can be tricky to understand and implement correctly. As previously stated, with great power comes great responsibility, and it’s definitely true in this case. Just remember that with every new version of WordPress comes a massive learning curve. This means that, even if you’re a seasoned developer, you might still find yourself struggling with things even after two years. Which brings us to our next point.

How Does It Work?

With every new version of WordPress (and this is the biggest one yet!), a massive number of changes are made to the codebase. So, while it’s great that designers can simply choose a theme and begin blogging, it’s also important to understand how all the pieces fit together. This is where things can get a little tricky. Now, before you panic and begin turning to tutorials and stack overflow, take a deep breath. I’ll tell you where to start and what you need to know to begin moving forward.

To begin with, let’s examine the code behind the scenes that makes a WordPress-based website work. First, there’s the layout engine, which is what makes the site look the way it does.

Every WordPress-based website uses a layout engine. What is a layout engine, you ask? It’s a code base that takes the design of the site and turns it into something that can be used by the web server. This means that, when a visitor opens up their web browser and clicks on a blog post, the server will pull down the blog content and display it in a readable format. A layout engine also takes care of any background images, site logos, and other aesthetics that make up the overall look and feel of the site. As a result, when a visitor opens up your website in their browser, they will see something that looks very much like the design you were originally going for. And this brings us to our next point.