5 Reasons Why Responsive Web Design Is Not Enough
by Josette Millar
Since the release of the first iPhones in 2007, the ongoing mobile revolution has changed the way people live, interact, and do business. Suddenly, instead of just worrying about having an online presence, businesses are hearing about the necessity of a mobile web strategy. At the forefront of the talk is responsive web design, a way of adapting content to be engaging and enjoyable for users accessing a website via mobile devices. As important as responsive web design is right now, however, it is not the be-all, end-all of mobile web strategy.
The “Band-Aid” Solution
Responsive web design was implemented primarily as a quick fix, the proverbial ‘Band-Aid’ solution, for websites adapting to a new type of user. It is based on making the traditional website friendly for mobile users, but as mobile becomes increasingly ubiquitous this frame of reference becomes more and more myopic.
Fails to Address Content Issues
One of the major problems responsive web design fails to address is content. Currently, content is simply being reshuffled to fit on mobile devices, but comprehensive mobile web strategy should seek rather a mobile-centric perspective.
There are also performance issues when a site is loaded on a mobile device. Slower connections speeds and less processing power make it far more difficult for mobile devices to load sites than a traditional desktop. Let’s keep in mind that the cascading style sheet (CSS) required for an application to run on every form factor is delivered to every device.
No Back End Support
As of right now, responsive design has no answer for problems with back end services. In the future it is likely that these will need to be restructured to deliver content across a broad spectrum of devices.
Lacks Native Features Support
Finally, responsive design often times isn’t taking advantage of the native device features mobile offers. Utilizing key features like GPS and camera integration would completely change experiences for mobile users and improve engagement.
Responsive Web Design vs. Responsive Delivery
One of the answers to some of the failings of responsive web design may be responsive delivery. With responsive delivery the server is able to detect a device and adjust content specifically for the device without extraneous data being delivered.
Images and Graphics
Images and graphics often present problems for responsive design because they must be scaled/resized from the original content, often take a long time to load, and typically aren’t ideal for mobile. With responsive delivery images/graphics are improved by additional images that are created to ensure ideal UI, improve loading times, and adjusted specifically for the detected device being used.
Rather than adapting the desktop menu like responsive design, responsive delivery may create a different mobile menu. New menus drop unnecessary pages and add elements like click-to-call and open maps with mobile map applications like Google Maps.
Copy / Text
Responsive design displays the same text regardless of whether the visitor is a mobile or desktop user. Responsive delivery instead seeks to tailor text for what the mobile visitor’s needs with features like click-to-call being added.
Desktop sites often have mouse over events which are, of course, rendered totally useless for a mobile user. Through responsive delivery, these events can be replaced with a new set of images or components that do work with mobile.
Short Falls and The Future of Mobile Web Strategy
While responsive delivery may serve as a potential solution for some of the problems plaguing responsive design, it doesn’t fix all the issues as of yet. Performance issues are definitely mitigated, but there’s still much to be seen when it comes to back end support and native features support. What remains certain is that as mobile technology continues to evolve, becoming a major computing tool for many, so too will mobile web strategy.