Ask the Experts

What is Responsive Design?

My cousin told me that he just had a website built using responsive web design. Now when someone looks at his company’s website on a desktop, tablet or smartphone, visitors see the same content.

I was wondering if that is something we should look in to and if we should update our site using responsive web design.

Responsive Design is basically designing and developing your website so that it renders properly on any screen size on any device

For your users, that means your site will be well optimized for someone viewing it from their desktop, tablet, or mobile phone.

So is it the right way to go?

This is a really great question and one that addresses the latest buzz in the web world. We’ve debated the pros and cons internally for a while and whether or not it makes sense for our clients.

The short answer is, it unfortunately that all depends upon your situation.

Now at first glance it sounds like a great idea, and one that would make life a lot easier for marketers, designers, and developers, but don’t jump on the bandwagon too quick.

Here are some pros and cons of responsive design that we’ve put together:

Some Pros Are:

  • It’s more about user accessibility than saving development money (More mobile users are wanting it all)
  • One URL for desktop and mobile, no more “View Full site” links on mobile = retaining users
  • Mobile users have full or near full functionality
  • The ability to manage one set of content
  • Updates and changes are on applied one time (in theory)
  • One link to share, so someone on a desktop doesn’t get lost trying to open a link

Some Cons Are:

  • It’s more complex to plan and build
  • It’s not less expensive to build. It can be less expensive to maintain
  • Download times can be longer than a traditional slimmed down mobile site esp over 3g, but this can be managed
  • Some older devices don’t fully support css3 media queries so they’d see the desktop version
  • Best practices are fluid right now
  • Images get downsized on mobile so they need to be created with that in mind
  • Mobile and desktops users may be looking for different experiences
So Is it Right For You?

The main takeaway is that Responsive design CAN work, but don’t look at it as a shortcut to building a mobile and desktop site. The planning, design, and development can take just as much if not more time as it would to plan, design and develop three separate versions, one for desktop, one for tablets, and one for mobile. It’s important to work with your web team to establish what your goals are and what you want the user experience to be. You may find that going the traditional route is just as effective for you.

All in all, be ready to plan out your website and put a lot of thought into what you want the user experience to be and how to best give that to them.

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