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Why is Responsive missing the point?

by  David Dwyer on  11/02/2015

And why we advocate a tailored approach to mobile website design

The internet is awash with debate about the best type of website for mobile devices.  Should you go Responsive, as Google recommends?  Or Adaptive/Dynamic, with content tailored for the smaller screens, faster download speeds and lower data allowances of mobile devices?  Or Mobile specific (Google call this Separate URL) i.e. a mixture of the two, tailored to your business's specific customers?

Responsive websites are designed to be used for both desktops and mobile devices, with exactly the same text and graphics for everything.  This means that customers will find exactly the same information on your site, however they access it.  For example, if someone finds something on their mobile and then wants to find it again on their desktop, everything will be where they expect it; on an Adaptive site it won't, which is frustrating.  It also means Responsive websites are cheaper to design and maintain, and Google prefers them because they make life easier for the search engines.  However, they have a major downside, in this instant-everything age: they are very slow to load on mobile devices due to large file sizes, especially with full-sized graphics.

Adaptive or Dynamic sites use smaller graphic files and sometimes less text, so that sites are easier to read on a smaller screen and take less time to download.  But, as noted above, they can be frustrating for people trying to use both desktops and mobiles, as sites look different on different devices and have information in different places.  Since 50.3% of people now use their mobiles to access the internet (December 2014 figures), even at home or in the office where there is a laptop or desktop, that is an important consideration. 

Mobile-specific sites can be written specifically for people on the move, with contact information, directions and so on given prominence over information that might be accessed at the comfort of a desk.  However, people are making more online purchases from their mobiles now, so you can't afford to strip everything back to essentials: sites designed for mobiles may also need to include an e-commerce facility, for example.  
There's really only one answer: tailored sites. It sounds obvious but consider where your customers are and give them the information they need to accomplish their purpose in landing on your site. Allow them to achieve whatever they need, whether that's clicking to call a phone number, finding directions to an emergency dentist,  or buying a book.  Tailored sites are designed to appeal to a specific customer profile, to be attractive and user-friendly on whatever device the customer has to hand, and to work at an acceptable speed. Have a look at what we created for http://m.perthshiremotorhomes.com: this is what we regard as a tailored mobile solution.

Responsive websites are missing the point: we need speed and they don't provide it.  Most people don't want a full twelve or fifteen page website on their mobile.  They use mobiles precisely because they're easy to handle.  If websites take five minutes to download most people go off the whole idea.  That's the way to lose customer engagement and consequently sales.  Adaptive sites are better, but sites that are tailored to work fast on any device are the real answer if you want to keep ahead.

David Dwyer is Managing Director of Inspire Web Development. He has years of experience in a range of web and IT roles plus seven years in sales and marketing in a blue-chip FMCG company. David's academic and professional qualifications include a BA (Hons) in Business Economics (Personnel & Ergonomics) from the University of Paisley, an MSc in Information Technology (Systems) from Heriot-Watt University and PRINCE2 Practitioner-level certification. He is also an active member of the British Computer Society, Entrepreneurial Exchange and Business for Scotland.

Follow Inspire on Twitter @inspireltd and @developersos

Digital Marketing, Digital Trends, Disruptive not Disrupting Tech, Mobile Websites, Responsive Web Design, Smart Phones, Sticky Websites, The Evolving Web, UI, User eXperience, User Interface, UX Design, Web Design
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