Back to all posts

Why do responsive sites have to be so tall on mobile?

When designing responsive sites, we tend to focus a lot on keeping content nicely formatted within all the various screen widths in the world today. This makes sense given that horizontal scrolling is not particularly user-friendly, so constraining the design to the browser's viewport width is generally a given.

On smaller screens, stacking things into a single column is the go-to move and often, as long as the content stays within the proper width, further thought isn't given to the height of the page. As a result, I've noticed that in my own designs and many out in the wild, mobile page lengths tend to be quite long. This post is a suggestion to at least keep the height of the browser's viewport in mind as you're designing responsive sites.

Let’s look at an example

Google’s Nexus landing page is a pretty typical modern, marketing page. It has a nice, clean design and it’s responsive. You can pull it up on any size screen and it’ll format nicely within the screen's width.

But if you pull it up on your phone, you may notice that it takes quite a bit of scrolling to get through the whole page. On my macbook, the page was about 4,500 pixels tall - which is about 6 times the viewable height of the browser window. By comparison, on my phone the page was about 6,200 pixels tall - or roughly 10 times it’s viewable height. This is not inherently bad; there’s no design law that states you have to make websites consistently tall across different size devices, but I think it’s an interesting observation to dig deeper into.

So what’s the problem?

Again, I don’t believe that the overall page length itself is inherently problematic. I have noticed though that in many responsive designs, purposeful groupings of content are easy to spot on larger screens, but get muddled when things start to stack on mobile screens. For example, on the Nexus page, the second section groups three hardware features together. On a large-enough screen, you see these three blocks side-by-side and the section often ends up being exactly the height of the browser’s viewable area. On mobile however, you end up only seeing one of the blocks at a time. As you scroll through the page, it’s not obvious that these 3 things were intended to be grouped together - not the end of the world, but not optimal either.

Is there an alternative?

Recently, I’ve been using the height of a devices viewport as a rough guide to help determine how I should lay out content. The intent is to solve the problem I mentioned above where content that is intended to be grouped together can be reasonably viewed at the same time on any device. In the Nexus example, an alternative to their original design might look something like this.

By drastically shrinking the size of the section heading and the thumbnail photos, we are able to fit all the same content from that section into a single viewport. This change by itself might only be a small incremental improvement, but in aggregate I’ve found that following this general guideline leads to layouts that are easier to follow as you scroll through the page on mobile devices.

Stepping back a bit...

There’s nothing special about the design I just showed you. It’s only one of many possible layouts that would have achieved the same goal - keeping the content in a particular section grouped together more obviously. If you decide to use viewport height as a guide for your mobile layouts, you should explore all the different ways you can position content. Depending on the context of your design and the nature of the content, different layouts may work better.


This article was originally posted at:

Can we take you from stuck to unstuck?

We'd love to hear from you

Product Design

The ‘Product’ is the website, service, application, interactive thing being worked on by the business. The practice of Product Design is similar in a lot of ways to UX Design. It involves the coming together of many specific design disciplines...

Call to action (CTA)

A call to action is a marketing term that refers to a prompt that invokes a response leading to a sale. When referring to a call to action (CTA) in the digital design world we usually mean the interactive element that leads to the next step in the experience - something that needs to be clicked or tapped.

User testing

User testing refers to a technique used in the design process to evaluate a product, feature or prototype with real users. There are several reasons why you might want to undergo usability testing, the most common is that it allows the design team to identify friction in a user experience they are designing, so that it can be addressed before being built or deployed.


WYSIWYG (pronounced WIZ-ee-wig) is an acronym for "What You See Is What You Get". It helps identify an an interface that allows user input resulting in an output that is rendered in a similar way. For example; a word processor application interface might resemble a piece of paper,so when printed the user can see how the output will appear.

Content Management System

A content management system (CMS) is an tool that allows a website editor/administrator to manage the content that is displayed. Websites are made of HTML and CSS to create pages. Pages can be hard-coded but would require technical development skills to make changes. A CMS usually allows a person without coding knowledge to amend existing and add new content to a website using a WYSIWYG interface.

Responsive Web Design

Responsive web design refers to a web page that dynamically adapts its layout to fit the size and orientation of the device on which it is viewed. A responsive design allows for a more optimised user experience across desktop and laptop computers as well as smartphones and tablets of varying sizes.

User Stories

User stories allow the functionality of a product or service to be expressed as written descriptions of an experience as seen from the users perspective. The writing of user stories creates a list of design and development tasks to complete in order to create any required functionality.

User Interface

A user interface (UI) is a conduit between human and computer interaction - the space where a user will interact with a computer or machine to complete tasks. The purpose of a UI is to enable a user to effectively control a computer or machine they are interacting with, and for feedback to be received in order to communicate effective completion of tasks.


A persona in UX Design is the characterisation of a user who represents a segment of your target audience. On a project you might create any number of personas to be representative of a range of user needs and desires. The solutions you design must answer these needs in order to deliver value to your target audience.

Card sorting

A great, reliable, inexpensive method for discovering patterns in how users would expect to find content or functionality. Card sorting is used to test the taxonomy of data with a group of subjects, usually to help inform the creation of the information architecture, user flow, or menu structure on a project.


A technique used to generate ideas around a specific topic. Often done in groups, but can be done individuals. The process usually involves writing down all ideas around a topic onto paper, a whiteboard or stickies often implying some kind of association.

Minimum Viable Product

An MVP is a product that has the minimum set of features to prove the most essential hypothesis for a product. Businesses building a new product can create a Minimum Viable Product to prove that an idea is viable and warrants further investment. A further benefit being that the next stage of development can be informed by feedback obtained from testing that MVP.


A sitemap is a diagrammatic representation of a hierarchical system. It usually depicts the parent-sibling relationship between pages in a website, showing how sub pages might be arranged underneath their parent groupings. This arrangement forms a map of the site.

User journey

A user journey represents a sequence of events or experiences a user might encounter while using a product or service. A user journey can be mapped or designed to show the steps and choices presented as interactions, and the resulting actions.


A prototype is draft representation built to test ideas for layout, behaviour and flow in a system. Prototypes are an indispensable tool for resolving a large number of potential issues in a concept or business before too many resources are deployed to put a design into production.


A Wireframe is a visual schematic that conveys a basic level of communication, structure and behaviour during the design of a system. Wireframes are low-fidelity designs that bypass including a detailed user interface or visual design, conveying just enough to get across the core idea.


To say something is usable is a qualitative statement about how easy that thing is to use. Usability is an assessment of how learnable a system is and how easy a user finds it to use. The usability of a system or product is a key factor in determining whether the user experience is a good one.

Information Architecture

Information architecture is the design and organisation of content, pages and data into a structure that aids users understanding of a system. A more organised system enables users to more easily find the information they require and complete the intended tasks.

UI Design

User Interface Design is the discipline of designing software interfaces for devices, ideally with a focus on maximising efficiency, responsiveness and aesthetics to foster a good user experience.

UX Design

The practice of User Experience (UX) Design is the coming together of many specific design related disciplines to improve the usability, responsiveness, uptake and aesthetics of a product or service.

User Experience

A general term that covers all aspects of a user's participation while engaging with something that has been designed. Usually when talking about User Experience in the digital design field it refers to the interactions, reactions, emotions and perceptions while using an app, service, website or product.