Is Responsive Design Right for Your Mobile Customer?

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Desktop websites have evolved over time to deliver extremely rich online experiences, but they do not represent a baseline for mobile comparison. Take a look at your desktop home page and measure the size of its content. For example, the table below shows the size and number of objects on a few well-known, fast desktop web sites:


As you can see, the Currys mobile site is the same size as the full desktop website. That’s because Currys is leveraging a responsive site that uses the same file across all channels. Over a Wi-Fi connection, the Curry’s desktop site loads in 4.53 seconds, compared to the CVS mobile site, which loads in 2.10 seconds. On a smartphone with an LTE connection, the Curry’s mobile site took almost 20 seconds to load fully, while the CVS site loaded in less than 6 seconds. Do you think your customer is going to wait 20 seconds for your mobile page to load? The ironic thing is that most of the weight that is downloaded when a responsive site loads on mobile is never shown to the user because many items are hidden to “fit” on the device.

There’s no doubt that the debate around responsive Web design (RWD) has reached the entry level of most organizations, achieving elevated status as a simple way to reach consumers on the Web, regardless of the device they use to access the Internet.

But is responsive design really the right approach to engage your mobile customers?

Roland Campbell, director of solution engineering at Usablenet, can imagine what you’re thinking: “What do you mean? Of course responsive design is right for our mobile customer. Everyone is doing responsive design now, and even Google is advocating for it!”

Before we break out the torches and pitchforks, let’s think about what Google is really saying. Sure Google recommends responsive design as a way for developers to extend content to mobile devices, but they offer mobile specific versions of Gmail and Google Plus, two of their flagship products. With one search field and blocks of content, for example, it makes sense for Google News to take a responsive approach as it is easy for content-heavy sites to repurpose the way the content is presented on mobile devices.

However Ethan Marcotte, who coined the term responsive Web design, states in his book Responsive Web Design, “most importantly, responsive Web design isn’t intended to serve as a replacement for mobile websites”.

Campbell has identified a number of key considerations organizations must examine before they decide to incorporate responsive design.


Related Topics : In Their Own Words: The Four Dark Horses for the Third Major Mobile OS Speak, HTC, Mobile Search, 3G, Location-Based Services

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