When is responsive the right response?

Responsive web design is being hailed as a panacea for communication in the digital age but is it right for you?

The importance of web design is no longer confined to mumbled discussions in the corner of agency meeting rooms, tweets on web developer streams and posts on tech journalists' blogs. Internet usage with mobile technology is booming and the value of having a website that people can use on any of their devices is recognised and commented on widely.

Because of this, responsive web design has become the darling of the digital community, with Google saying they think it's pretty sweet too.

A recent study by Adobe of 100 billion visits to over 1,000 websites shows that 15% of all web traffic is coming from mobile, with 8% coming from tablets. That is 15bn visits via mobile devices. And the trend is for those numbers to rise.


At UXB, we love responsive web design and believe it can help cure those mobile blues. However, there are times when the theory might not fit the practical needs of your website. So, when is responsive the right response?

Know your user

Never assume you know what your users are doing without a bit of research first. Mobile use may not mean mobile users as they are often sprawled across their sofa watching Netflix and tweeting their friends.

Analyse your content

You then need to focus on who you are as a business, what you deliver and what you want in return.

Open up Google analytics and have a look around. Where are people entering your site? Where are they dropping out? What devices are they using to visit? What sites are they coming in from?

Once you have spent time digging through your analytics, you should get a better understanding of how your visitors use your site, what they like and what they don't.

Check the chart

Now you have analysed your content and figured out how your visitors use your website, you can start putting the tasks they want to perform on the desktop site into a list.

With this list, stack them on top of each other and, using the same letter for each task, order the priorities for a mobile device on the right hand side and draw a line to to match the letters ( A to A, B to B and so on). This is a technique first explained by Cennydd.


Image from cennydd.co.uk

If your letters are joining up simply like in the left chart, responsive is the way to go. When your priorities are similar from desktop to mobile, it becomes clear that you can join in on the responsive fun. However, if you have a very muddled-up and confused chart like the one on the right, the best option is a separate mobile site, also known as MDOT.

Make an informed choice

Chances are, you ended up with a responsive friendly site and that is not a bad thing. The internet should not be separated depending on the choice of your device. Why should someone with a smaller screen only have access to half the content?

Is responsive design the answer to all the world wide webs ills? Obviously not but as more people access the web from their mobiles and the expectation of consistently good user experiences on every device increase, it's proving to be the right solution for many.

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