With smartphones set to outnumber people, organizations are increasingly focusing on mobile strategy. Thanks in part to mobile computing, a traditional desktop website is not as effective at attracting business as it once was.
Responsive web design allows your website to adapt to the device's screen size for each user. This means you can create one site that responds to smartphones, tablets, and desktops.
While this new approach to web development may seem like a one-size-fits-all solution for incorporating mobile customers, there are certain limitations and drawbacks to acknowledge.
Advertisements are not responsive
Advertising revenue from a website is often directly tied to a business's livelihood. For instance, as newspapers have continued to adapt its print offerings to digital, its primary aim is increasing online traffic to attract advertising dollars lost in print. Responsive websites shift webpage elements to adapt to the device, which can mean bad news for advertisers -- as well as the website's owners.
With a responsive site there is a non-trivial chance of an advertiser's banner ad being distorted from the desktop version to the smartphone version. Given that advertisers pay for ad unit placement -- by screen real estate and position -- responsive web design creates a definite issue.
If you are considering developing a responsive website, you have to be cautious that it doesn't jeopardize your ad-related monetization strategies.
Extra effort for designers and developers
In the same way that Nathaniel Hawthorne meant "easy reading takes damn hard writing," a seamless web experience -- regardless of device type -- takes damn hard designing. Web designers that create a responsive site are effectively increasing their workload, as compared to building a standard web or mobile site.
From the outset of a design, the designers must anticipate the impact of their desktop design choices on the potential reformatting for smartphones and tablets. Rather than create a site only destined for desktop consumption, designers must create a desktop site with the responsive formats in mind.
Prior to opting for responsive design, also consider that retrofitting an existing website with responsive design is more time consuming than creating a responsive site from the ground up. If your organization is interested in responsive, make sure your resources and time allotment are in congruence.
Sometimes alternatives are superior
Often times, a mobile app or standalone mobile website may be a stronger option than automated reformatting of desktop sites for mobile. Consider how mobile bankers interact with a banking website compared to a user sitting at their desk on a laptop. Issues regarding user experience are crucial -- considering optimal web design should always incorporate user context into the process.
Most likely, mobile bankers want quick and instant access to account balances, nearby branches, and close ATMs. For mobile flyers, Delta Airlines created a mobile site with an emphasis on checking flights as soon as you load the page. Through their analysis of user interaction data, Delta realized the main objective for flyers accessing their mobile site was to check flights, rather than compare flights or manage reward points and miles.
Delivering access to the specific functions your customers and users require is essential. Consider how desktop bankers may be more interested in analyzing their transaction history, scheduling payments, or opening new accounts. Priorities of a user can shift according to device type.
Responsive web design -- at the moment -- does not completely cater to the unique aspects of using different devices for different reasons. To prove this point, simply head to a responsive site on your desktop and resize the browser window. What you will see is a shift in dimensions and page elements of a website according to the screen size, not adaptation to user context.
Are you considering a responsive redesign of your existing website? Or are you building a new site and want to incorporate responsive from the get go? Please share your own concerns and experiences -- positive or negative -- below.
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