5 Reasons Why Responsive Design is Wrong for Your Business

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Is Responsive Web Design Wrong for Your Business?Responsive web design is the darling of the web design industry…but is it right for your next project?

By 2014 more than half of the web traffic will be delivered over a mobile device. If your website isn’t optimized for mobile, most of these visitors will bounce from your website like a quarter on a military cot. 

If you talk to just about any web developer these days about developing a mobile website, they’re going to try and sell you on designing a responsive site. But what’s good for them might not be right for you.

If you’ve been considering a responsive website, read on…

What is responsive web design?

Responsive Web Design (RWD) is an approach to web design where the site is crafted to be optimally viewed regardless of screen size…no matter whether your visitor arrives by desktop, mobile device or tablet…now or any device in the future.

Remember when they told us that CDs wouldn’t scratch? ;)

And while RWD offers a lot of potential benefits, the idea that it’s right for all web projects is ludicrous.

There’s no one calling plan, diet or religion that’s right for everyone, so why do we believe that there’s a one-size-fits-all approach to redesigning your website?

Below are five reasons why responsive design is wrong for your next project. 

1. “Mobile First” is just bone headed advice. 

Users First, Not Mobile First“Mobile First” is the rallying call of responsive web designers, meaning that you design first for mobile, then for other platforms.

While that’s seemingly harmless advice, the truth is that we should be designing for Users First

For years I’ve been telling businesses that although you want to write search engine optimized content, Google is never going to be your customer. You need to write for your ideal customer, then make sure that your copy can be understood by the search engines.

The same is true with mobile web design: design first for the user, then for the platform. Just keep in mind that someone on a mobile device may have different needs (i.e., directions or a phone number), than the same person when she’s on a desktop computer (such as deeper resources.)

2. Responsive Design often means unnecessarily long load times for mobile users.

RWD means that you’re delivering all the same content regardless of the platform, just optimized for the viewing screen.

However, there may be plenty of content on your site that doesn’t need to be shown to mobile users. However, it’s going to be automatically downloaded–often in areas with poor cell reception–as your visitor accesses your site.

Long content pages with one (or even two) side columns that work well on the desktop, are finger-cramping scrolling exercises on the thin single-column of the phone, creating a painful mobile experience.

Images–optimized for desktop screens–are also a problem. As Juan Pable Sarmiento says:

In responsive web design this is the most problematic matter because resizing a desktop image to fit a mobile device’s screen implies downloading an image that’s been suited for a desktop environment. To view full images on a mobile device you need to download an unnecessary large file and resizing it to fit the screen.

3. There’s no “Desktop View.”

Switch to Desktop ViewOn most non-responsive mobile websites there’s an option at the bottom of the page: View in Desktop Mode, or something similar. This allows the viewer to override the mobile style sheets and see the site as it was designed for a desktop computer.

In the world of RWD, there’s an arrogant belief that we know what’s best for the user. That if the designer has done his or her job, there’s no need for a desktop view.

However, as we transition into this brave new world of mobile, many people still prefer the traditional desktop design. This is especially true for sites that get a lot of repeat traffic. When someone has become comfortable with your desktop design, why make them learn a new interface? Why not give them the option of the desktop view?

Again, RWD’s “one size adjusts to all” can feel paternalistic.

4. You have a perfectly good website.

Mobile Site with WP-TouchIf you’ve got a perfectly good website–meaning it’s attracting visitors, generating leads and building your business–then converting to a responsive website will most likely require you to rebuild from scratch.

Remember: “mobile first.”

In cases where your website is already performing well, there may be better options. One would be to create a mobile-specific website (which admittedly has its own shortcomings), so that you could keep your current site “as is”, and just redirect mobile users to a mobile-specific site.

If you’re on WordPress, (one out of six websites in the world are built on the popular CMS), you could install the WP-Touch plugin. The flyte new media site uses this plugin to deliver a mobile-friendly experience.

The plugin is free and takes moments to install. As a designer, I’m not crazy about the out-of-the-box design, but you can work with your web designer to create a more attractive, branded theme as we did.

And now, with WP-Touch Pro, you can create tablet-specific experiences as well. 

We were able to create a great experience for our mobile users at a fraction of the cost of redesigning the site to be responsive. 

5. You’re not getting a lot of mobile traffic.

There’s no guarantee that by 2014 you’ll  be getting more than half of your traffic from mobile devices. 

How Much Mobile Traffic Are You Getting?

Certain industries, especial in hospitality, shopping and news, are likely to see big increases in mobile traffic. However, other industries will have more time to adjust.

The only way to know for sure is to look at your Google Analytics and see what percentage of traffic to your site is on a mobile device, and at what speed that’s increasing.

I’m not suggesting you should bury your head in the sand! Rather, that you should make the business decisions that make the most sense for your business…not your web developer’s.

Yes, I believe your mobile traffic will continue to increase as a percentage of your overall traffic and you’re making a critical mistake if you wait too long to adapt. However, if you’re not planning on a website overhaul this year, it might make more sense to find a stopgap measure and use your marketing budget for something else.

Think I’m alone in my thinking? Here are a few who agree that responsive “ain’t all that.”

Conclusions and Caveats

As some of you may have realized, The Marketing Agents is responsive. 

Oh, the horror!

I’m not suggesting that RWD isn’t a good choice in many situations, but saying it’s the right choice for everyone is like suggesting that everyone should drive a Prius because of the gas mileage. Try selling that to a general contractor working on a construction site or a mom who’s driving soccer practice carpool for six kids. 

As time goes on and designers get more experience with RWD–understanding the shortcomings and discovering the workarounds–they’ll be able to develop better experiences for the end user AND the business owner.

But for now, know that there’s more than one way to build a mobile website.

If you know someone who’s been thinking about getting a mobile site built, or someone who thinks responsive web design is the greatest thing since sliced onions for colds, please share this post with them.

And, if you think I’m out of my tree on this one, let me have it in the comments below.

Rich Brooks
Unresponsive Web Designer

  • http://twitter.com/VisibleLogic Emily Brackett

    Rich, I agree that many times a desktop version plus a mobile-optimized version is the best route to take. We are doing this most of the time with web site these days. It is more cost effective in many cases and focuses the design decisions on the 2 targets that make up the bulk of the web traffic.

    I look forward to hearing other people’s responses.

    • http://twitter.com/therichbrooks Rich Brooks

      Emily,

      Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment! 

      I’m not so against RWD, (after all, this site is responsive and so are others we’re building,) however, pretending there’s no downside is just arrogant. 

      The only way a small business can make the decision that’s right for them is by getting an accurate accounting of all the credits and debits of the RWD solution.

      Rich

  • Craig Wilson

    Finally a voice of reason!  How many times have we heard you must or you better!  But everyone’s situation is different as you pointed out.  I hope more web designers and marketers display your integrity and ethics and don’t sell people what they don’t need and create problems for the real pros in the business.

    Just sayin!

    • http://twitter.com/therichbrooks Rich Brooks

      Craig,

      I think you nailed it. Maybe RWD will evolve into what people claim it already is, but for the time being, I think you need to weigh the pros and cons of each approach.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • supportpros

    Great post, you kinda pinched a nerve but I definitely agree. 

    • http://twitter.com/therichbrooks Rich Brooks

      Thanks! 

      My goal isn’t (necessarily) to pinch any nerves, but rather just to get small business owners to think about what’s in THEIR best interest before diving into mobile.

      Hopefully this jumpstarts the conversation and gets people thinking rationally.

      I appreciate you stopping by and taking the time to comment. 

      • http://marcelinolatorre.com/ Marcelino Latorre

        Their best interest is the most important perspective hands down.

        Personally I got tired of writing for new clients because of having to deal with greedy designers who kept telling me to cut my copy.

        Over the last 24 months I learned the ins and outs of usability and design and I am now taking the plunge into the high quality content world.

        Can’t wait to learn a whole lot from you guys at this years Content Success Summit Rich, thanks again.

        Cheers!

  • http://twitter.com/ZombiePrepNet Zombie Prep Network

    “RWD means that you’re delivering all the same content regardless of the platform, just optimized for the viewing screen.” – no it doesn’t. Almost nobody in practice does RWD that way. I’m afraid I disagree with almost every premise you’ve presented. I agree that all web design should be user focused. Being contrarian is not being authoritative.

    • http://twitter.com/therichbrooks Rich Brooks

      Zombie Prep,

      Love the handle. Appreciate the feedback.

      I’m not trying to be authoritative on RWD as much as I’m trying to point out that the mindset that it’s right for all mobile projects just isn’t true…at least not yet.

      I’m glad that we agree that web design should be user focused…I see too much design out there that’s more focused on the tools or the business, and not on the ned user.

      I understand you don’t agree with what I’ve shared here, and I really do appreciate you taking the time to share.

      If you’ve got some good examples of RWD where there’s significantly different content served up based on platform I’d love to see it. Not because I don’t believe exists, I’d just want to share RWD done right.

  • http://twitter.com/bjankord Brett Jankord

    I agree, user first is an ideal way to design. 

    Yet when it comes time to develop your website, mobile first is the way to go. 

    Why? Mobile first development lines up with progressive enhancement. You will be able to reduce the size of the CSS file if you use min-width media queries to make changes to your layout as the viewport gets wider. By default, the layout should be optimized for a linear design without much styles needed.

    Responsive design DOESN’T mean unnecessarily long load times for mobile users. Again, if we develop with a progressive enhancement(mobile first) mindset, we can reduce and even alleviate a lot of the performance concerns. While a website designed for the anywhere everywhere Web will no doubt be larger than a website developed solely for one use case, responsive sites can be very performant if implemented correctly.

    The idea that the Web can be split into certain views like “Desktop View” and “Mobile View” is part of consensual hallucination. While I agree, allowing the user to zoom out to a birds eye view might be desirable, there are solutions to handle this in responsive web design. I recommend researching “Opting out of responsive design” Chris Coyier has written an article about this.

    I also agree with your 4 reason. Having an existing site that is performing well makes it hard to see a benefit of creating a responsive version. I think creating a separate mobile site in this case and using that are you base for a responsive version is a good idea. You can keep the two, but keep optimizing your responsive mobile site, Maybe eventually you can build it up to accommodate tablets and someday even replace your “desktop” site.

    The last reason for not building a responsive site is flaky to me. Tracking mobile users solely with JavaScript analytic will not give you true results on how many mobile users you have as many mobile devices either don’t support JavaScirpt, or have it disabled by default, (Older Blackberries).

    Deciding on building a responsive web site is a decision that should not be taken lightly, though I believe implementing a responsive website correctly can alleviate some of the issue discussed in this article.

    • http://twitter.com/therichbrooks Rich Brooks

      Brett,

      I really appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts. I was unaware of the shortcomings of tracking mobile users with JavaScript and I’ll have to look deeper into that.

      I’m still not sold on “mobile first,” but I like how you use it as an approach to creating a better website. 

      Hopefully you’ll come back often and weigh in on mobile again.

      Thanks again for commenting!

  • BobWP

    Hey Rich I love it. To quote you – “I’m not suggesting that RWD isn’t a good choice in many situations, but saying it’s the right choice for everyone is like suggesting that everyone should drive a Prius because of the gas mileage.”

    This is exactly right. When I coach my clients mobile always comes up. And there is a place for both RWD and the mobile plugins. If they are looking at redesign then maybe a more serious look at RWD is in order, but not always the perfect solution. There are just too many variables.

    For example, I just did this with a towing company. We talked responsive design vs. mobile plugin, and I talked them into the latter. Basically it was this. When you are off the road, in a ditch, snow up to your hips, you don’t give a crap about the design or look of a site on your phone. Instead, a simple landing page with a phone number and area services.. boom!

    Myself, I have RWD because it fits my need, my clients and my site. 

    Yes, I agree, user first, then mobile. Keep them both in mind though and figure out what will work best. 

    Lastly, there’s a lot of people out their with great sites and no resources to have it redesigned with RWD. A mobile plugin, such at the one your mentioned, WPTouch, is the perfect solution.

    Great post… thanks!

  • http://twitter.com/sitesbyjoe sitesbyjoe

    This seems to be the year of “make a RWD post that gets the community in an uproar”. The reality is this: If you design “mobile first” you are a) considering the most important things to the user first and b) starting with minimum page weight.

    The things you describe are more “desktop site squished to mobile size via shitty grid/framework” and not “mobile first”.

    True mobile first design requires adding enhancements based on the user’s screen size/other variables.

    If you’re sending your 8 frame, desktop sized image saturated carousel to a phone on a 3g network, well shame on you. That’s not “mobile first”. That’s not “user first”. That’s just “lazy first”.

    • http://twitter.com/therichbrooks Rich Brooks

      Joe,

      I did find a few posts (mentioned) that were not pro-RWD, but I didn’t stumble upon a treasure trove of posts that would cause an uproar.

      I’m definitely NOT saying that RWD doesn’t show promise, and isn’t right for a lot of jobs.

      I’m saying that too many people have adopted this belief that RWD solves all problems and is right for every site. 

      I just don’t believe that to be true…at least not yet.

      While some businesses may know exactly what the most important things are to their ideal customer, others have wider user bases and that approach won’t necessarily work.

      Also, many of the small businesses that I work with over at flyte have limited budgets. They want to jump into mobile, but they can’t afford to start from scratch.

      Yes, RWD has a place at the table, but so do other approaches.

  • discern

    I specifically remember Ethan Marcotte (@beep:twitter , @rwd:twitter —he wrote the book on RWD) saying exactly what you’re saying in a talk he gave—that RWD is not necessarily right for every situation.

    • http://twitter.com/therichbrooks Rich Brooks

      Sadly, many of his disciples don’t share that open minded view. :(

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1347828617 Debbie Moody Hastings

    Thanks, Rich! I particularly agree with being able to switch to desktop mode if a visitor wants to. 

    • http://twitter.com/therichbrooks Rich Brooks

      Debbie,

      I know. It’s funny, because a few people who commented on a related post said that if you need to show the desktop view than you’ve failed as a designer.

      But the “no desktop view for you!” approach reminds me of a certain soup maker on Seinfeld.

  • http://twitter.com/pizazzwp PizazzWP

    Finally someone speaking the truth on RWD! Every couple of years there’s a web design trend that unfortunately all pointy-haired folk get hold of and make it hell for designers and developers.

    I’ve never been a fan of the utopian RWD ideal. It is possible, as many smart-ass designers like to show off, but as you have shown, it is often not practical.

    The cost of RWD is borne by sterilization of web design. Pre-RWD, web design was becoming art and beauty. Now, it’s headed for a plain white page with plain black Helvetica text because the client budget is spent on RWD. :P

    WordPress Twenty Twelve demonstrates this. Twenty Eleven was clean, elegant and beautiful. Twenty Twelve is hideous and plain. But, hey, it’s fully RWD! 

    I will never design a site for “mobile first” until that is the primary access platform. I mean, what next, design first for wristwatches?

    I prefer a top down approach. Ok, Mr Client, this is your content. We can show it all to the desktop etc. What are we going to limit or remove on smaller devices?

    The bottom up approach means by the time you get to the desktop, you’re tacking things on. Bottom up – mobile first – is an ugly thought.

    The purists ideal of RWD is just as ugly a thought.

    • http://twitter.com/therichbrooks Rich Brooks

      Pizzazz,

      Love the line about designing for wristwatches! Dick Tracy would be proud.

      I remember a few years ago when a  web designer took me to task because our new website wasn’t 100% W3C compliant.

      I told him: I’d rather have a website that converts than a website that’s compliant.

      RWD may evolve into something wonderful, but the goal of a business website is to generate leads and business. If you can do that through WPTouch or a separate mobile-specific site, then good for you.

    • http://twitter.com/mdonahue37 Mike Donahue

      “Pre-RWD, web design was becoming art and beauty.” Maybe but that wasn’t the point of web. This type of thinking is a artist ego speaking. This type of self-centered design likely doesn’t serve the real user needs.

      That said there’s absolutely no reason a designer couldn’t craft beautiful RWD sites. I also recognize the need to be designing for emotion and a great visual design is perfect toward that end. But the presentation should never be the primary goal on its own. it should always serve the content it presents.

  • Steve Bazinet

    Well put. Mobile users are looking to engage with their providers. Advocating for
    ‘user first’ or ‘engagement design’ helps companies extend their business model
    to mobile by understanding who the user is; their goals in using the web app;
    and then designing to allow users to take the next most likely action and
    accomplish their intended goal with the least amount of friction. Once you
    understand the user stories, the decision to go RWD, RESS, dedicated, native,
    etc will fall logically in place.

    Clearly, what we’re witnessing is a fundamental shift in consumer expectations. Consumers today demand access to content across any platform, from any location. “Mobile” doesn’t just refer to the platform; it refers to the “content”. I remember reading somewhere that “design without content is decoration”. Makes sense to me. The content is the design; the design is the content. 

    Anyway, thanks for the post.

    • http://twitter.com/therichbrooks Rich Brooks

      Steve,

      Thanks! I hadn’t heard of RESS before, so I had to go look it up. Can’t wait to dig in deeper. 

      As long as we focus on the end user, the rest should take care of itself.

      Take care!

  • http://twitter.com/GabeSalcido Graphic Art & Web

    Great points. I agree that the user is first when developing a website and there are some pros and cons with RWD but I think for me I see more pros. BUT, depending on your situation a separate mobile site might be a better solution. I think its important to know all the benefits and non-benefits to better approach our clients.

    The believe RWD have really opened up more choices in the development processes and has forced us designers and developers to really think about what the clients goals and how to approach there website.

    I read somewhere that RWD is “Evolutionary” not “Revolutionary”

    • http://twitter.com/therichbrooks Rich Brooks

      Thanks for weighing in!

      As I mentioned, this website is RWD, so I’m certainly not ANTI-RWD…I just don’t feel it’s the best solution in every case. 

      Some of the pro-RWD crowd who have weighed in here and elsewhere suggest that a number of these problems can be overcome…maybe in time I’ll feel that RWD is the default solution. 

      But even then, I’ll rail against a one-size-fits-all mentality.

      • http://twitter.com/mdonahue37 Mike Donahue

        “…maybe in time I’ll feel that RWD is the default solution.” The days of defaults are over, except for defaulting to what’s best for the user. That’s one size I don’t see any logical person debating.

      • Keith Grant

        +1 I may disagree with the points if the article, but I definitely do agree with the mindset here.

    • http://twitter.com/mdonahue37 Mike Donahue

      “I read somewhere that RWD is “Evolutionary” not “Revolutionary”” – Absolutely. In time it too will evolve into something else. A year, maybe two we’ll have another technique to choose sides over and we’ll hold on to RWD out of fear of that new way that we don’t understand.

      We evolved from table layouts to floated divs and now to responsive (when appropriate) and adaptive. As we gain new capabilities it’s our best interest to test them, validate those results and apply as a appropriate to the user experience. The only real difference here is that this technique got a catchy name.

  • http://twitter.com/GabeSalcido Graphic Art & Web

    Great
    points. I agree that the user is first when developing a website and
    there are some pros and cons with RWD but I think for me I see more
    pros. BUT, depending on your situation a separate mobile site might be a
    better solution. I think its important to know all the benefits and
    non-benefits to better approach our clients.

    The believe RWD have really opened up more choices in the development
    processes and has forced us designers and developers to really think
    about what the clients goals and how to approach there website.

    I read somewhere that RWD is “Evolutionary” not “Revolutionary”

  • Keith Grant

    Point #1 is based on a misunderstanding of the phrase “mobile first”. #2, #3, and #4 are only true if you’re lazy with your responsive implementation. #5 is probably a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    Forgive my brevity, but I’m posting via 7″ tablet on this page that sure appears to have a responsive layout. For which I am thankful.

    • http://twitter.com/therichbrooks Rich Brooks

      Ha! 

      Yes, as noted above, *this* is a responsive site. I’m not against RWD, just against the belief that it’s the one and only, golden child, solution. 

      Based on what I’ve seen out there, I believe a lot of RWD designers are misunderstanding mobile first, too.

      #5 isn’t self-fulfilling if you’re looking at visits, not page views, IMO.

      Your brevity is forgiven, and I appreciate you stopping by, Keith. Thanks!

  • http://twitter.com/rickmulready Rick Mulready

    Thanks for this, Rich.  I’m going through this discussion with my designer right now so it’s great timing.  Hadn’t heard about the WP-Touch plug in. Definitely going to talk to him about that now.

    • http://twitter.com/therichbrooks Rich Brooks

      Even though this blog is RWD, we’ve used WP-Touch on a number of websites and it’s worked out great. Super-easy to implement.

  • Tom Hermans

    Below are five comments why each statement is sending the wrong message or getting it wrong.

    1. “Mobile First” is just bone headed advice. we should be designing for Users First. 
    >> Mobile First is about the technological and design side of things and in reality often comes down to: don’t make it 1000px wide. And User First is “giving him a handier version of your website” on his tiny screen handheld device. Or whatever he uses to get to your site. Later more…
    User First, Content First, Mobile First. But still it’s Mobile before catering for content. Reason is simple, you don’t need all the extra fluff, styles, js, big images etc.. cutting down in markup/styling/assets > improving bandwidth;

    2. Responsive Design often means unnecessarily long load times for mobile users.
    >> No, it’s not. If you do mobile first approach, only basic styles for small devices are being loaded and progressive enhancement takes care of bigger screens. Assets can be delivered in a number of ways, also to minimize load, by e.g. serving smaller assets to a 480px wide screen than to a 1920×1080 screen.. 

    3. There’s no “Desktop View.”
    >> Yes, there is, it’s the progressive enhancement part of RWD, in a media query. Just like it was before, only now we started from a one-column, basically styled site first. (handier to add stuff for bigger screens than to re-style for smaller screens)
    look here to see what the mobile/tablet/desktop views look like.. http://mediaqueri.es/

    4. You have a perfectly good website. Build a mobile specific.
    First, there is no “mobile specific”, cause all mobiles are specific by themselves, there are literally hundreds of devices, mobile browsers, and viewport resolutions..
    A “specific” site will cater to just one.
    Plus, you have all the issues with non-canonical url’s, shared urls which redirect to the wrong site (desktop users get mobile site etc), duplicate content, two codebases to maintain, etc… it is a hack, and a bad hack.
    Are you gonna put your “user first” by building for each and everyone a “mobile specific” site. No, cause it’s undoable.
    That’s why it’s called responsive webdesign, while not “super-perfecto” THE best way to get to that, respond to the device the site is being viewed on.

    5. You’re not getting a lot of mobile traffic.
    Sites I built over the last year (2012) attract at least 20% mobile visitors, some even reaching up to 40%. Overall worldwide stats say we’re at 12% I believe.. . That’s a LOT! I also include iPad, although that’s often used “in” the home on WiFi, it’s still a touch device with a relative small viewport. The popularity of devices like the Nexus 7, Kindle or iPad mini certainly contribute to another “small” viewport that gets addded to the list, next to the ever and ever xpanding range and use of smartphones in all colours and sizes. And the early adopters are not alone anymore ..

    Conclusion: this whole article is imho already outdated, and it will outdate by the week even further.. 

    I gave a lecture on this subject almost a year ago, and it is a basis, but still a valid one. http://www.slideshare.net/tomhermans/responsive-webdesign-wordcampnl-2012

    Some answers on why no mobile site, what is mobile first, progressive enhancement etcc.

    and to conclude with the words of a very wise mobile advocate ‘mobile users will do anything and everything desktop users will do, provided it’s presented in a usable way” (brad frost)

    • http://www.petersenmediagroup.com/ Jesse Petersen

      You’re right, all the way. This post isn’t even worth correcting all of the mistakes and blatant lack of understanding what can be done to correct or avoid every one of these. This shouldn’t even be getting any attention. No one I know doing RWD does “mobile first,” so this started out very badly.

      It’ll be interesting to see how Thesis does in the coming months with Chris Pearson hyping this misinformation up. Like a 33kb stylesheet is a burden to mobile users.

      Rich, good luck with staying the way of the past. I’m sure you can bring back HTML 4.0 and do just fine. Be sure you host them all on GoDaddy servers, too. I hear they’re the best money can buy and only cost $4/mo.

      • http://twitter.com/therichbrooks Rich Brooks

        Jesse,

        As I’m sure you read in the post, this blog is RWD. We also develop sites using WP-Touch. I’m talking with someone right now about creating a mobile-specific site because of their needs.

        My point is that the idea that RWD is the only solution, or always the best solution is ridiculous. Especially in what I would consider a time of transition to mobile. 

        There may be a point where RWD makes the most sense for every mobile-enabled site out there, but by then there will be something else, and then there will be a group of people who tell us that their solution is the only one that makes sense.

        And, hey. I hate GoDaddy for hosting, too, so maybe we can find some common ground after all.

        In any case, I appreciate you leaving a comment. Take care.

  • http://twitter.com/OptimiseOrDie Craig Sullivan

    I think there is a case for both – just that most #rwd websites I’ve tested are freaking enormous!  I test a lot of sites for their load time profile and it’s like stuffing a pig down a toilet with a twiglet.

    Why are people sitting in their office, on wifi connections, looking at how this stuff loads without a clue what real life load time looks like.  Google Analytics now has speed tags by default – this will give you accurate measurements of real user load times, so there is no excuse!

    Anyway – the budget is a big thing.  Building a website which works on a large handset reach and device mix can be done for a few K but not if you’re taking the responsive route, IMHO.  A lot of small companies I work with get large phone traffic so having a ‘working now’ site versus ‘working much later’ is a consideration too.  It’s hard to sell #rwd as an approach when the budget offered by site owners is very small.  At least they then realise the huge value and that’s when you convince them to upgrade.  A stepping stone, not the final destination.

    I agree with a lot of your points – what people really need vs. what people want them to build = a very different thing.  #rwd will mature and more people will code with performance in mind.  It’s a learning process and this will take time to grow.  

    4G will not solve these problems with #rwd either, or the image handling troubles that developers hit.  4G still suffers from the same round trip delay times, so all those tiny objects you load add delay for every request.  You don’t get huge extra speed as a result – sometimes 25%, maybe more.  Bandwidth isn’t going to solve this problem of latency and developers need to get better than churning out the 1 or 2Mb bloaters I encounter all the time.

    • http://twitter.com/therichbrooks Rich Brooks

      Craig,

      Thanks for weighing in!

      I agree there’s a case for both, which is why we keep both in our toolbox. 

  • dirigodev

    As link bait, this is a nice subject. Respectfully disagree with much of what you wrote. At the end of the day RWD is just a newish technique.

    Every business has a unique set of needs. Done correctly, RWD can be very powerful. We work with clients that have >50% of their traffic coming from mobile devices. Most of our commerce customers are seeing between 13-25%. You posted a graphic showing 4.6%. IMHO that’s an understated figure (a recent national study recently reporting 10.55% as average). From a revenue perspective we have commerce sites seeing more than > $10K/day from smartphones customers. Revenue increases when these sites optimize for the phone. Mobile is here now! Actually, it was here more than a year ago. You know this. The debate is over “how to” skin this problem.

    If you’re arguing against simple “lemming style” RWD sites built by firms who can’t think, then you have a point. This industry needs some standards! Just about anyone who’s ever created a website calls themselves a web developer. That’s a huge problem. There are scads of firms doing a horrible job reskinning sites into RWD. That’s an age old problem. There have always been hacks in our business. You start at the bottom and work your way up – clients pay real money to work with gifted developers. The hacks work with small business on small budgets for marketers who can’t afford real talent or haven’t taken the time to learn the digital space. Are these bottom feeders doing our trade a disservice? I’ll leave that question alone.

    I think that you’re going to be hard pressed to hold Flyte to an anti-RWD position. Ouch! You could just as easily have written “5 Reasons Why RWD is Right for Your Business”. Every business/budget is different. RWD is not right for all. My firm is thick into Zurb Bootstrap MVC RWD CMS sites. We’re 16 months in and not turning back. RWD all the way – when it makes sense.

    Running separate code for mobile and desktop is not within reach for many SMBs. RWD is sometimes a good solution. RWD does not need to load slowly. Sencha.com has a nice solution (we don’t use it because we have our own similar solution). We build solutions that pull different images and even different content blocks from CMS enabled SQL tables. There is no rule that says that RWD needs to just reorganize the desktop content. And yes, there’s not a desktop view unless your developer programs one (e.g. build in an override to the breakpoints). A mobile user is not necessarily looking for the same information as a desktop user. 10-4 on that concept.

    In my view of the world, marketers (our clients) need an affordable whole encompassing digital solution that gives them the ability to market optimally to all devices. The tough part in that sentence is “affordable” and “all”. RWD is a pit stop on the road to whatever comes next. In my mind next is a new generation of more sophisticated CMS systems and website SaaS solutions. The systems are going to win in the end. Responsive design and adaptive techniques aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. They are current, cost-effective solutions to the device problem. My grandma has an iPhone and my twin eight year olds have mobile devices as well. We’re all going to be connected 24/7/365. Love it. This is what has always turned me on about computers and the Internet. We (the developers and owners of development firms) are changing the world. That’s cool.