Why is Responsive Web Design Such A Big Deal? Seriously…You Tell Me

Take Note: I just need to add a little bit of text here to see what this caption looks like!

Responsive web design is probably the hottest topic in the design community right now. And no, I’m not just realizing this.

For the past couple of weeks, I have been reading all there is to read on the subject and been experimenting with a lot of different techniques.

Needless to say, I am ready to start converting my Thesis skins (and all future designs) to be responsive, just as I have on my new personal blog.

People who use my skins are always asking when I will make them responsive, and why it’s taking me so long to do it.

My answer? It’s simple:

Why is it such a big deal?

Believe me, I think responsive web design is a great thing. As a designer, it’s fun to create and as a consumer of content on multiple devices: it can make life easier (or all the more tougher).

But in all honesty… why do you want it so bad?

Believe me, I think responsive web design is a great thing. As a designer, it’s fun to create and as a consumer of content on multiple devices: it can make life easier (or all the more tougher).

Have you taken the time to truly understand what a responsive website design does? Do you really need to serve your “mobile” visitors a different layout based on your current content?

Or, have you been programmed by all the hype and what the ‘experts’ are doing and suddenly decide you need a responsive website over anything else?

I Need Your Opinions

I have become so fascinated by not just responsive website design, but how people react to it. I want to know why you want a responsive website, and why this new way of design is such a high priority for your website.

I want to gather as much information as possible, because let me tell you: I am working on a monster post about everything responsive web design soon, and I want your opinion to use towards that post.

So please, leave a comment expressing your honest opinion about responsive web design and why it’s so important to you.

(orig. 3/19/12)

53 comments comments closed

  1. I agree that it’s a very ‘hot’ topic at the moment, and seems that everything has to be ‘responsive’ now. I believe some of it is due to the excitement of the design community to make flexible designs instead of making separate versions for multiple platforms (remember .mobi sites?)

    But to answer your question: it matters because it’s quickly becoming the expected user experience. For content heavy sites, you can’t expect people to just ‘deal with it’ when they’re loading it on a phone. They want to read your stuff without having to pinch and zoom in 5 different ways to just get the text. If it’s a business, having a mobile option will give people immediate data, which is probably what they’re after so they can come purchase something from you. I easily make 50% – 75% of all my purchases online, and most of those lately have been mobile.

    • Thanks for stopping by dude, great thoughts.

      I think in a very short time (maybe a year or two), responsive design will just become a part of regular web design, and we won’t have to classify them as separate things. It’s just like how CSS took over tables, responsive design will just be standard to any design.

      And then we can all have something new to talk about. 😀

  2. I would agree with Norcross that it’s a hot topic at the moment, actually I think it’s bordering on a “fad.” For example when people and businesses suddenly “got” that they needed to be on social media (twitter, fb, etc.) they wanted to get setup without thinking about it. Do they really need a social media presence everywhere? How do they plan to update/use the technology (who’s job is it to update)? And does it fit in the current marketing strategy?

    There are many more questions I could pose, but you get the idea. I think people need to take a hard look at whether the investment in responsive design is worth it. Are people looking for your product or service while on their phone/ipad? Granted the “one design fits all” approach has been a utopian ideal since writing 2 code versions of sites for both Netscape and IE back in 1996, but I think businesses and individuals (mainly small business) need to look at the investment and upkeep before blindly charging ahead.

    • Maybe not even so much a fad, but a new standard in design even?

      Love the comparison between social media and responsive design, it hits the nail right on the head. I guess the bottom line is that when new stuff like this comes out, everyone wants a piece of it (new iPad, anyone?).

      It’s a matter of need over want, and we all want it when we don’t really need it. I would recommend people actually take the time to look at their traffic, understand what devices are being used to view and then make that decision.

      The truth is, a responsive website should just not be a priority for most people, especially when there are other things that deserve more attention (like building an email list for example).

      Do you think all websites should have one unified experience, or separate?

      • Hi Alex, I am a big believer in unified experience.

        If pockets are deep, or you have a great deal of time on your hands for personal work, you can attend to the level of detail to execute a unified visual experience that adheres to branding standards (if they exist).

        For most laypeople and the small business person, I think they like it when they see it or use it.

        However, many do not have the resources (think $$$$) to invest in the myriad of minutiae needed to pull it off.

  3. Responsive design for us it is a matter of being practical. We are in the real estate business. Many of our customers use mobile devices when searching for property. This concept is validated by our server logs. The data shows it.

    Our livelyhood depends on giving our customers cross platform, easy access to property listing data and information.

    For us we feel this can best be done by having web sites with responsive design. From a practical standpoint we feel is a more economical route than trying to maintain a mobile version of the site(s). We are understand that there are legitimate arguments for having a mobile version on a subdomain for example. However, like the coyote traveling along we also feel it makes sense to seek the path of least resistance. 🙂 Afterall, our expertise is primarily real estate sales and information not web site development.

    Now we also need developers to incorporate responsive design in real estate related themes and plugins.
    Happy trails, Mike

    • See Mike, I wish more people would take this approach and do the research. For your niche, and based on your data, a responsive design (or something for visitors on non-desktop devices) is crucial.

      I am hoping to be one of those developers who does just that also. 😀

      Great insights, and really appreciate your thoughts!

    • Mike, I’d like to make a distinction between a responsive design and a mobile interface, because these are separate things that are often misunderstood.

      Based on your comment, it’s clear that your site needs some sort of mobile solution, be it a responsive design or a mobile-specific interface.

      I would encourage you to look at *precisely* what your customers are after when they browse for properties using a mobile device. In all likelihood, they only want to browse properties and to see images and stats when viewing specific properties.

      This means that you would ideally serve FAR less data to a mobile user than you would to someone who is browsing your site from a desktop computer.

      And this is precisely where the problem/misconception with responsive design comes into play.

      Mobile users need 2 things: [1] The data they’re after, and [2] speed (they need that data as quickly as possible).

      With a responsive design, your ENTIRE site—scripts, code, and everything—loads for mobile users. This is problematic because these things are primarily intended for larger screens ONLY, and they will massively impair loading times on mobile devices.

      Given that speed is so important to the mobile experience, this is a huge problem.

      If mobile browsing is truly important to your business, then you MUST optimize for speed and for EXACTLY what the user is after.

      Responsive design does not solve these problems, but a mobile-specific interface (likely located on a subdomain as you mentioned) is the answer.

      The bottom line here is that mobile devices are different from desktop browsers, and—this is the most important thing—users interact with them differently.

      Because of these differences, a mobile-specific interface is the best answer for companies that are reliant upon mobile devices for sales and leads.

      • It’s great to see you here, Chris.

        While I’ve read quite a bit over the last few days, I’ll admit that I hadn’t really thought about making this distinction. What a great point.

        Sometimes we forget about all of the behind the scenes stuff and think that just because the content looks minimal, that the load is as well. That’s definitely not the case, as you’ve stated.

        This is something to think for everyone wanting to go responsive. Just because there’s a need for a different mobile interface doesn’t mean that responsive design is always the best choice.

        Outstanding. Thanks for your insight.

  4. Responsive design does seem to be big deal recently and I think it is for good reason. With so many people using smartphones and tablets to surf the web and every device has a different screen size (resolution) so it seems to be that responsive web design is the best solution for making sure your site looks great no matter who arrives and what device he is using.

    I think Smashing Magazine have a great responsive design – http://www.smashingmagazine.com/ and I personally think this is where web design is headed in the near future. Creating a separate site for every device seems like too much work when you can have one solution that fits all and looks great.

    Not sure if it will fit everyone but I’m pretty sure that all major brands and blogs will make the move.

    Pretty excited to learn you have something in the making for Thesis!

    • Great thoughts Dror.

      But, do you think a business should take a different look at how their design responds over a personal blogger, for example?

      • I do think it will probably be more important for a business than for your everyday blogger and in general, it does make sense that businesses will approach responsive design differently.

        With that said, there are exceptions and I do see some bloggers making the most out of a responsive design and i’m sure that the big bloggers will probably embrace it as more and more of their visitors are coming to their blogs using devices with various resolutions.

        Overall, responsive design seems to be the best solution for providing the best user experience for every visitor that comes to the site, no matter what device he is using and as we all know, user experience and first impressions means a lot these days.

  5. Good questions, Alex.

    The designers I admire are all very excited about it. Which is why I got very excited about it.

    After creating several responsive sites I think it serves a handful of purposes:

    Enables targeting for action oriented design and conversion tactics. When you start anticipating the desires of a mobile user you end up solving lots of other problems, mobile first and all that. E.g., if it’s a real estate broker’s site and someone’s visiting on their mobile device, you have a HUGE opportunity to convert that visitor to a phone call. So promote that button to your mobile visitors—from (http://cl.ly/F8Tz) to (http://cl.ly/F9Qb) for example.

    Now, this is different from a regular ol’ blog design. There’s a hard, fast business benefit in the real estate example. On a blog the benefits of responsive design may be a little softer. But the point still stands: you can customize the experience to increase conversion based on browsing device… because browsing device can really be a clue into a user’s intentions/capabilities at the time of the visit.

    People are beginning to expect it. Hat tip to Norcross on this one. Yes, they kind of are. Though it’s maybe not a good enough reason alone to take on responsiveness for any given site.

    It’s a branding thing. When people land on sites that are tailored to their iPhone it says something about the site. It make this simple blog feel a little fresher. Responsiveness shares a little “whoa” juice with the visitors. This is also a factor in differentiation methinks.

    Because we can. Fuck it’s fun! I typically spend about .5-4 hours a day just resizing my browser and watching sites morph. It’s fucking magic, man, and lots and lots of people run browsers/devices that support it.

    Ultimately, I got into the responsive design thing because when I saw the first responsive site I shit out loud with excitement—it was so fuggin’ cool. That’s what started it. Now I keep it up because it says something about me as a capable designer, it helps me make better sites by forcing me to think about user intention/capabilities/mobile first/etc., it increases the brand weight of the site I’m making, and, basically, I can better control/direct elements of any user’s experience on the site. Also, tons of chicks, man. Tons.

    • Like I said, best comment ever! Seeing some of your designs really motivated me to go ahead and learn more about how responsive design works, so thank you for that. 😀

      I’m with you, I think responsive design is more than just ‘another thing you have to learn,’ but something that you’ll always be fine-tuning and trying to get better at. It really challenges you to think, and to turn one design into a mini-army of designs.

      I think it has the potential to scare away some of the lame, can’t-design-for-shit people who half-ass everything. That is, once a responsive design becomes a standard.

      Definitely am going to quote the hell out of you in my article, appreciate it, partner in crime. 😀

  6. I hated responsive design. I dug my heels in. “Responsive design doesn’t take the mobile context into account! People on their phones don’t NEED all the crap that’s on your site! Make a lighter, faster, more concise version just for that use case, dummy!” (See also: http://rachelnabors.com/2011/06/responsive-design-vs-the-real-world/ )

    But I also recognize that we often hate what we don’t understand. So I played with it while decrying it. But two things made me realize that this could be really useful:

    1. It looks so damn good on my Kindle’s eInk browser. Unresponsive sites required me to zoom in an out and were just a pain to use. I would avoid following links on that device just because of how hard it was to read them! But RachelNabors.com is a 100% awesome reading experience in that monochrome browser. I didn’t have to invest in a special “Amazon Kindle optimized site.” This improved display spans all kinds of devices. Equal effort for universal return. A responsive site will never need to be rebuilt to work with new resolutions or use cases. With all kinds of new resolutions coming online, it’s the only way a designer can maintain a modicum of control over the user experience without building a new mobile site every year.

    2. It’s really good for content. Listen to me: when people think “mobile first”–as they must if they wish to fully embrace responsive design–they also think “useless last.” Fluffy text, ugly ads, pointless UI and clutter get stripped from the road map and all that remains is all that users actually need when they visit a site. This is a boon to the Internet as a source of content. This is the kind of corset content creators and marketing teams need to wear.

    But here’s also why it will fail miserably:
    1. Onboarding will be hard once the hype fades if it doesn’t become the New Normal. Marketing teams like absolute control. Investors want prominent placement. Everyone has a dog in the fight.

    2. It takes longer. Designing 26 pages for a fixed width site is resource intensive enough. Now imagine designing those and tweaking them for 4 different resolution points. Now imagine the client/customer service/whoever wants to add an additional section to the site which requires 4 more templates. Even with Sass, modular grids, and templates, it will quickly become a maintenance nightmare. We in the CSS and markup community are working hard to address these issues, but no bulletproof technique has come to light yet.

    These two things keep me from drinking the koolaid. I still remember when everyone discovered AJAX and OMG pages would never have to refresh again. We still use AJAX and do things without refreshing pages, but we aren’t building sites where every page is called using AJAX anymore. It was just too hard to maintain. But perhaps responsive design will stick around as a similarly powerful but altered weapon in the front-end arsenal.

    • You bring up some seriously awesome points Rachel, and the thing that got to me the most was your second point about why it will fail.

      I definitely think it can come as a problem, ESPECIALLY when handing a design over to a client. But I do think that the design community will (if they already haven’t) come up with some kind of response to that.

      Whether it’s something like this, I think designers need to be creative enough and have a good enough code base to futureproof it and easily make it so a site can expand without adding the same complications as AJAX did.

      Like in Ethan Marcotte’s book on Responsive Web Design, he mentioned 37signal’s experience in turning their design responsive:

      As it turned out, making the layout work on a variety of devices was just a matter of adding a few CSS media queries to the finished product. The key to making it easy was that the layout was already liquid, so optimizing it for small screens meant collapsing a few margins to maximize space and tweaking the sidebar layout in the cases where the screen is too narrow to show two columns.

      So you have to think, if designs were like that of 37signals, then maintaining and expanding shouldn’t be a huge issue, and for that reason: I think it should only take longer if you’re working off of a bad design.

      • But there will always be bad design! And not all sites can be 37signals nor be blessed with their talented, cooperative people.

        I agree that for widespread adoption designers will need to update their coding skills and become more like front-end developers–that or front-end developers will find themselves in high demand in companies with long-established code-illiterate designers. Unless, of course, Adobe comes up with a new tool…

        As I implemented this on my own site, I found it added a few hours to each page design on average. For some budgets, though, that will be too much. And what about sites where page designs differ wildly from one another? Will site designs be reined in, or will the owners invest more to keep that differentiation?

        I’m interested to see where it goes. In the mean time, my site is legible on the Kindle and on phones. I sleep well knowing I don’t have to invent 3 mobile solutions to please a common denominator!

  7. Responsive design has been on my mind a lot lately, too. I would have to agree with Bert that it’s almost becoming a fad. I’ll be honest when I say that I didn’t give a damn about it until I heard enough people talking about it. Then I decided to give it a go.

    My first attempt to go responsive was on SuccessOnMyMind.com which is my own cutsom design and uses a few custom layouts. So, that made it a little more difficult for a novice designer like me.

    As Rachel pointed out, that got really annoying… really fast. I have a separate stylesheet for media queries and that’s about the ugliest stylesheet I have ever seen. On the homepage, certain breakpoints seemed great. But when I’d get to the about page, my thoughts would change dramatically.

    It’s leading to multiple, random breakpoints and a lot of what I believe to be unnecessary worrying about irrelevant details. It got to the point where I started to question my fixed CSS structure and if I needed to rebuild it in order to better prepare for the responsiveness. Ugh… it all got annoying.

    I do feel, however, that it’s nice to visit a site on my iPhone and see that it was catered to me. At the same time, though, I enjoyed the ability to switch back to a desktop view when I wanted to. Going responsive removes a little bit of control that I was used to. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

    Either way, I am still open about responsive design. I have Chronicl installed on YouSetthePace.com and I played with a little responsiveness yesterday. I ended up backing away and saying to myself, “Ahhh… I’ll let Alex tackle this and I’ll just upgrade.” Haha… we’ll see what happens.

    Great question on the subject.

    • Sean mate, your sites look amazing! It seems that you’ve choose Chronicl to power one of them and it looks great. I’m a big fan of this skin and I think I’m going to buy it myself for one of my projects.

      • Thanks a lot! I did choose Chronicl for one of them because I swear it gave the EXACT feel I was looking for and I felt that there was no way I would do a better job than what Alex had done to achieve that. So, I went with it.

    • Never mind…. I just dropped the responsiveness on SuccessOnMyMind.com. It was more of a pain in the ass than a better user experience, if you ask me. I’ll try again eventually.

  8. Not particularly super-excited about this as the web is becoming more a place where you get “information” from rather than a nice and colourful place.The “responsive” version of a site (if we can put it this way) is far more appealing than a mobile version but you get to a point where you, as a reader, cannot decide which version to see. Go to StudioPress’ site on a mobile and you only can see the “responsive” version. The site looks great on a computer but if you visit on a mobile device is just blocks of information, one on top of the other.

    • Responsive design isn’t really about making a design look good, but to display content better for viewers on a different device.

  9. The growth in mobile is amazing. I want to provide the best service to my clients (mainly small local businesses) so I feel that I need to stay up with the latest tools, practices and requirements.

    Let me take the example of a site I am working on now. The main reason people will visit this site is to find out what it is all about (A new local toastmasters group). They’ll probably do this from their office.

    If they decide to come to the meeting they might need to check the site again to look at the location, see what time the meeting starts etc. Doing this on a conventional site from a mobile is not easy. I’m experimenting (it’s a one page concept site at this stage) with the Foundation framework so I can put the information that they will want to access on a mobile (time, location) front and centre in a responsive way, whereas when they are on a conventional computer I can give them more detail.

    Of course this doesn’t apply to all situations, but for mine, working with small local businesses – mobile optimisation is even more important because the figures show that mobile search are more geared towards local stuff.

    I first saw your tweet of this article while I was waiting outside a shop waiting for my wife. The mobile experience on my cheap Android phone (waiting for the iPhone 5!) was horrible. This is nothing against your site, but I’ve waited till I am back on my laptop to read properly and type a response.

    I think, aside from the need for localization there is the app experience. People are getting used to using apps on their phones and tablets. Sure responsive design can be about making things look right on different screens – but then the next part of the puzzle is the user experience. Are the button’s large enough – can I use it with one thumb and one eyeball on mobile (quote from Mobile First book by Luke Wroblewski).

    Ultimately as web designers we need to think about the end user for our individual sites. Checking our analytics helps with that, as will common sense.

    I don’t think responsive design is a fad, but I don’t think every site needs it (yet) either. But it’s certainly interesting and a great string to your bow as a designer.

    Can’t wait for your article Alex!

  10. Right now responsive web design is seen as a way to create a user experience that pleases different screens. But, there is more to it that I believe is lacking currently in many responsive designs.

    The idea of function and purpose are challenged in creating a responsive design. The boundaries and experience for the user visiting your design needs to be experimented and challenged. Responsive web design allows that to happen.

    It’s only developing and right now many people think it’s just a cool way to make your interface/website change from a desktop, to tablet, and to phone.

    Now I want to write more about this… be on the lookout haha

  11. Derek, you’re onto the general principal at the heart of the issue.

    There is a need for responsive design, to be certain. Remember many users are not “tech” users and their ability to understand the subtle differences by platform or even browser type are limited at best. What they know is it “doesn’t work” or something’s missing. When you’re in business on the web this can mean the difference between a sale and an abortive web visit. The advantage in general of responsive design is you have a single template but it accommodates many variables, therefore less to manage/maintain.

    To Dereks point… YES the design must be right and the usability considered above all else. Even back in the “old days” of the web we understood the simple principals and all sites, no matter the screen resolution or the platform/software should complicate that.

    Alex.. As for your designs. You have a great foundation and are on the right track.

  12. To be honest, I don’t need it at the moment. Apart from the hype, the type of content on my blogs have very less mobile traffic in terms of %age ~2-3% and for those users already use the WPtouch plugin which does the work. I would have needed it badly if my mobile traffic has been more, but now I can wait without worrying much about the time which is needed to bring the responsive skin.

    Obviously it is good 🙂 and would love it when it will come to Kolakube skins.

  13. As a user of WordPress and Thesis, I guess my honest answer to the original question is ‘I’m not sure’. I’m seeing a lot about responsive design and themes but don’t honestly know whether this is the right path for me to take, or whether I need a mobile specific theme or just do nothing and wait!

    This post has certainly been useful given some of the earlier comments. Thanks. 🙂

  14. Why is Responsive Web Design Such A Big Deal? Is it? not necessarily.

    Responsive web design is a relatively simple and accessible technique, method, or call it a solution that enables continuous – ongoing user experience cross different platforms.

    Since multi-platform availability is a fact (a growing one), the big deal is anything that help designers to create familiarity, a user friendly design and relevancy between the different platforms.

    Just a thought 😉

  15. Hey Alex – simply stated:

    I don’t want to work to understand you.

    …or anyone else. There are very few media outlets that I actually dig into. All the others do have their 10-seconds chance to tell me by their overall appearance what I am going to experience.

    If they get this right, there are still a lot more chances to mess it up and lose me as an interested reader. As a consumer I like it simple.

    This is a reason why I respect your work a lot: I can make it simple and still have your great design.

    So in essence, for me responsive design starts with proper planning of what information I present in what way. If you don’t get that right, Alex Mangini can make a headstand and would still not save any blog with the most responsive theme.

    Can’t blame everything on the designer…

  16. Thanks Alex for your quick response to our requests. I am a non-tech blogger and have a little knowledge of coding, actually a general end-user 🙂 However, I think that all readers does not like to see any blogs on their mobile devices with low loading and readers are not patient to wait until the site finishes loading, as well as it is hard to navigate the regular layout on mobile devices too, that is while we need a friendly layout on different devices like responsive design. That is all I can say now

  17. Hi Alex,

    Wow, this is a great discussion and very cool to see Mr Pearson himself make an appearance.

    Funnily enough, we are a real estate company too but because we are in a highly skeptical area, our primary focus is to educate our clients and give them lot’s of transparent information with the view of building a solid relationship of trust. If I came to you as a stranger and told you that I knew of a place you could buy the sexiest hotel room on a paradise island off the coast of Africa with the world’s biggest hotelier and not only be able to use it any time you want but also get money dropped into your bank account every financial quarter, you wouldn’t believe me. From what I can see on analytics, 10% of our traffic is mobile/ipad. We do catch our clients back with a permission loop I’m setting up which will involve regular podcasts and other good quality content communications and those are the things that need to be available and picked up whilst our clients are on the go. So only a portion of our site needs a mobile interface as Chris says.

    I guess the other thing I’m thinking is that if our website isn’t responsive than we might look ‘behind the times’ as a company and as an internet marketer I really don’t want that at all.

    • Finally! Someone brings actual analytic reporting in the discussion!

      I’m on the fence of responsive design; is it a fad or here to stay? I’m both a designer and a developer with my educational background in Advertising and Graphic Design, so when I’m building and designing a site for a client, my focus is on the client’s target market.

      If you look at your web traffic and only 10% is mobile, why would you spend time making your site responsive? If you’re seeing 40%+, then sure, it makes sense. BUT, if you make your site responsive and you see your bounce rate increase and the amount time on the site drops, is it really working? I start every website project getting to know who their current demographic is and who they’re trying to reach. Is it a demographic that uses mobile devices or is the site meant for those who will plan to spend time in front of a computer?

      Then the designer part of me notices that the talk is a lot about content. That saddens that part of me as a web site isn’t “only” content, just a like a house isn’t “only” the furniture that’s inside. A lot of the responsive sites I’ve looked at are pretty horrid, mostly because it’s apparent they followed a grid template, changed a few colors and called it a day, and that’s just lazy… I know that’s not everyone, but I have seen a common theme from responsive sites that have sacrificed design for the sake of responsiveness. A quick look through this group http://designmodo.com/responsive-design-examples/ and you’ll notice that a majority of them look almost the same with a few modifications and a different color palette.

      My gut tells me that it’s a hot topic right now, but it will cool down as being responsive isn’t the end all, be all. I believe it’s a technique that will benefit some sites that are content driven or must translate really well with mobile users. And honestly, you shouldn’t feel like you have some special ‘badge of honor’ just because your site is responsive, if the site looks terrible or has a huge bounce rate, there’s no honor there. Consider responsive design if it will help your site users, if it doesn’t, just let that bandwagon move on through.

  18. I can only speak for myself here, but as a creator who’s focus is now primarily on video, I want for my users to be able to easily access what I create.

    I’m noticing more and more my traffic is coming from mobile devices, and because of that, I want my stuff to be more mobile friendly. There’s nothing worse than scrolling through a page, and accidentally clicking on a link because the text wasn’t meant to adapt to the screen that it’s on.

    It’s also really crappy when the font size doesn’t change to fit the screen, and the branding of the site is lost because you have to zoom in to read it all.

    There’s a number of issues on not responsive, but it all comes down to user experience. The more we use our mobile devices to access the web, the more it’s expected that the design will adapt to that. I’ve straight up left sites that aren’t very mobile friendly, and as a creator, I don’t want the same thing to happen when people access my site.

  19. What is it -need to know before we can launch into discussion of merits…
    should never assume audience all are on same page. Start where they are and build back to your place, not vice versa.

  20. I’ll just say, don’t show your I-phone crazy client a responsive site unless you’re prepared to deliver.

  21. Nearly 50% of all web access comes via non-computer type “devices”. Phones, tablets, etc.

    The relative size of device-only web users vs. computer based web users will continue to grow.

    Failing to recognize a growth market in it’s early stages is the first step toward early extinction. Failure to embrace the mobile-only web user will be the next point of frustration for local small businesses finally looking to create a web presence.

    When it comes to incorporating “responsive design” I say resist at your peril. All these comments acting like this is a passing fad sound like parents talking about Elvis or Rock ‘n Roll in the 50’s.

  22. I think responsive design is mostly hype. It will stick with us to the future, but right now, there are no conventions, because it’s all new. Seems many people just want to be able to say “oh yeah, of course my site is responsive” no matter how it is responsive.

    Bottom line: Responsive design needs thought and care, it’s not just something you stick on a site like “This site is Responsive™”

    =)

  23. Despite the hype, one thing about responsive design and the whole response-design movement that really bothers me, is the fact that website-builders decide what I get to see on my device. For example, if I open the website of smashingmagazine.com on my mobile (a Windows Phone), I automatically get the ‘small’-version, with a different layout and where some functionalities are hidden. But what if I don’t want that? I’m familiar with the whole site, as it appears in my desktop-browser and that’s how I want to see it, on any device.

    The thing is, most modern devices (smartphones, Ipads, etc) are perfectly capable of displaying ‘normal’ websites. Most devices have zoom-functions and auto-adjust gestures and they work great and intuitive. A special mobile-version is just not necessary anymore.

    Even more, speaking about user-experience, with more versions on every device, the user constantly gets another layout of the same website with other functionalities. How does he know where he can find what? It’s really the opposite of user friendly.

    I think the whole responsive-design is a couple of years to late. It was handy for the phones then, with limited capabilities and really small screens. The phones and mobile browsers now are so much better and much better capable of displaying ‘normal’ sites.

  24. I think most of reason is now many people using mobile to go to the Internet and that’s why we should have a site that reponsive.

  25. Facebook just bet $1 billion that mobile is going to be a big deal. Apple are selling record numbers of tablets and everyone wants one.

    I think responsive keeps looking about things getting smaller, when personally I’d like to see responsive for people using bigger resolutions. When you are trying to read div’s that span the page at >1900 px wide it’s hard to follow.

    Should it be mobile first?

    There is boatloads of cash pouring into the mobile advertising ecosystem, readying for when site owners can capitalise. If you are a publisher serving up ads mobile requests will often serve blanks or house ads (read Google Chrome).

    Fill rates could and should be a lot better. I’m not seeing much responsive ad serving going on.

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  27. Hi Alex. I was just discussing this very topic earlier today. I suspect this is one of those questions that will result in a wide variety of opinions expressed. I may as well toss mine in.

    I suppose it depends on the nature of the content served by a particular website. However, speaking as a visitor, I prefer to view the full “desktop” version of a website – even on my smartphone.

    I like plugins, such as WP Touch, that allow to me toggle between “responsive” and “desktop” thereby not forcing me to view the “responsive” version.

    I realize I’m in the minority here but that’s my 2 cents. 🙂

  28. For myself personally, I have noticed that a growing amount of my visitors are coming from mobile devices, and that my bounce rate is substantially higher for mobile than for my overall site. My mobile bounce rate is around 20% and my overall bounce rate is around 6-7%. Right now about 25% of my traffic is from mobile. It isn’t the majority of my traffic, but it’s becoming more and more significant

    Chris made an excellent point above, in that people need to distinguish exactly what the end-user will ultimately get a better experience with. The way the content/media is being consumed will make a big difference on the way it performs and is presented.

    I have used a .mobi website is the past for mobile devices, but had to manually put a link in the footer and/or header “click here for mobile version” which I think looks tacky. I just made it a simple html page with a GIF flashing through my different services, pricing, a checklist of all the common services i offer, and my contact info. All on one page. The entire site was ~ 75 kbs

    I think that responsive design is a great start, but the functionality of a mobile site is ideal for most mobile visitors. I think it comes down to visual vs functional.

    I’ve tried to for some time to find a plugin for WP to “auto-detect” if a mobile browser is being used, and if yes, then redirect to new page(and having option of it being outside of wp, to a static html page). I haven’t really been able to find a good working plugin for this – although i havent really looked lately.

    The current mobile themes aren’t that visually appealing to me. And when I spend a lot of time and energy designing a specific layout and theme for a website, I want to keep that same consistency and end-user experience across all platforms. This is why I would lean towards responsive design over a mobile version. The trade off for myself personally is better suited in the visual aspect than with the load time.

    How do others feel?

  29. People view stuff on the internet from a broad range of devices today and even more so in the future, so content needs to easy to navigate with minimal scrolling and resizing.

    But it does depend on they type of site – are people really going to view a tutorial site from a phone? Hmm, maybe. A dating site or an online store? For sure.

  30. I think that this is a great question. Every morning, I get up and have coffee time with my wife and then I read my favorite website The Drudge Report. At first I thought it would be great to read through their app but as time wore on I realized that I really liked reading through their actual non-responisve url. I can not explain it really but I like seeing the actual website and yes it requires more pinching and zooming but I do not care.

    -Renee’
    @wheresmyoffice

  31. I don’t agree that responsive design is a fad or something everyone thinks they need but do not need; in fact I strongly disagree. The reason responsive design is important is simply that screen sizes vary so widely now, and developing a site that looks good or behaves the way we, as designers, would like it to behave, just makes sense. Way more sense than having a “mobile” and a “web” version of a site…and as new devices (and screen sizes) are developed, this will become even more of a no brainer. Heck I not only want a site to look good on a certain device, I want it to look it’s best, at any pixel width, and responsive design allows me to do just that. When you say “fad” it suggests it will go away…and the only thing that will make responsive design go away is if new devices are no longer created. That is not going to happen. There may be better ways to accomplish responsiveness, but in a way, when we separated content from layout with tableless CSS, isn’t this exactly where we were all going?

  32. With and more people using mobile devices to access the Internet, making your website responsive is not just an option anymore but a requirement.

  33. Is this site responsive? If so, it sucks, much like most sites I go to. I have my browser expended and there is sooo much white space, it’s pathetic. Might look good on a little device, but frankly it looks like crap on my three foot monitor. When I have large screen real estate, I want to see more content, but I guess that’s too much to ask. Also, the other problem I see is that my 3 foot monitor may have the same pixel density as a small device. But I have the potential of “seeing” more content than what is displayed on the small device (you may have to enlarge the fonts on the small device so things are easier to see by the user or enlarge the graphics on the tiny screen). Instead, I just see stuff made for a small screen, then just “enlarged” for larger screens… ugh, a lot of sites just look like crap to me. To me when HTML first came out in the late 90’s, it was more responsive than this site. I too need to find out more about what responsive design is supposed to solve, but so far, I’m not impressed.