Everybody’s talking about responsive web design (RWD). The buzz surrounding this designing approach is humongous and just refuses to go down. Every business irrespective of its size, who wants to get a website developed, wants its site to be responsively designed. Businesses that already have an operational website are getting it redesigned to make it responsive. It’s almost like RWD has emerged as the savior that’s going to rid websites from the evils of increasing bounce rate, low customer connect, decreasing revenue generation and rapidly declining brand awareness.
Most people think RWD equals website success and improved brand awareness for their business. But things are not as simple and straightforward as them seem. Implicit trust in RWD can often be misplaced. This statement might come as a surprise to you, but it’s the truth. RWD is really not the be all and end all of a successful online identity. It might work for some and might not deliver on the expectations of others.
So the question to ask here is, why is the fanboyish trust in RWD misplaced? Let’s take a closer look.
RWD at its most basic
For purposes of this article, let’s just explain RWD at its most basic level. Responsive web design ensures your website renders effectively on all devices, irrespective of their size and screen resolutions. You don’t have to create different web designs for different devices. Its fluidity ensures it can fit into any screen size and display content that has been earmarked for that size.
Now, let’s find out why RWD doesn’t always work.
RWD is not the answer if your audience is not a mobile web enthusiast
Let’s take an example of a website catering to the demands of senior citizens, say a website selling assistive devices. In this case, a large section of the website’s target audience isn’t going to access this website through their mobile devices. So, it doesn’t make a great deal of sense to go in for RWD. However, going for RWD might not take anything away from your site. But, in this particular case, a responsive website might not make a great deal of sense. So, why go for it. RWD doesn’t come cheap as it requires expertise in specific web design technologies like CSS3, media queries and HTML5. As a business, if you want your RWD investment to offer the desired returns, you need to make sure that a large percentage of website users will make use of the mobile web to access your site. If they don’t, RWD can become a wasted expense.
RWD is not a good idea if content appearing on smaller devices doesn’t add any value
Just the fact that your website renders effectively on mobile devices doesn’t lead to improved brand awareness, which in turn translates into improved traffic and better conversions for your site. If the content offers no real value to the user, your site isn’t going to find traction on mobile devices. The needs of mobile users are different from that of desktop users. Contextual content is the key to leveraging the immense potential of RWD. But, if the website content displayed on mobile devices doesn’t satisfy the contextual requirements of the target users, why have RWD in the first place. In this case, it really doesn’t deliver a lot of value in any way or form.
These two pointers illustrate the fact that RWD is not really the solution for all your problems, but in these two particular cases the fault lies on the website owner more than anybody else, for failing to realize the potential of RWD.
Now, let’s look at the misplaced trust angle purely from RWD’s inability to stand up to scrutiny.
RWD websites typically do not have fast loading times
There is this false belief that because a website has been responsively designed, and it displays far less content on mobile devices that the site will load faster on mobile devices. This is a wrong assumption to make as the download size of the website doesn’t dramatically reduce just because it is accessed through a mobile device.
We all know the notorious impatience of traditional internet users, and mobile web users are a step ahead when it comes to impatience. So here’s the uncomfortable truth. RWD and better web performance don’t walk hand-in-hand. A slow loading responsively designed website won’t be given the benefit of the doubt by mobile users. In fact it will invite criticism and create a negative reputation for your brand.
Complexity of RWD calls for Good Implementation
The performance issue that we have talked about, can be handled with solid implementation, but the inherent complexity of RWD (remember you are designing it for multiple viewing experiences) make this implementation a challenging exercise. Even the most astute and experienced designers can falter during the process of implementation. As can be imagined, this makes RWD a double edged sword. It’s not a simple and straightforward route towards online glory.
Face the fact that a technology like RWD doesn’t come cheap. The sheer complexity of the design process means it is expensive. As a business, you have to be really very sure, you want RWD. If you do decide to go ahead with it, you need to also make sure you get a talented designer to work on your project. Just about every web designer professes to be an expert in RWD, but very few designers can actually create and implement a website built using this design technology. Is this a risk worth taking? You decide.
Trust in God, but in RWD? I am not sure whether it’s for everybody. I am sure its adoption will continue to increase, but whether a business will be able to really up its profits with the adoption of RWD is really debatable. It does have its shortcomings and these have the potential to put the spanner in its efficiency and long term sustainability.