Responsive Design and Mobile Design – what’s right for you?




A guest post from Kurt Diekmann, Account Executive at Switchbox.

So, you’ve likely heard it before from our client: “I want a responsive design* for my website.” And like all good account managers, we immediately think “Yes, Client! We’ll get right on that!” Because honestly, no one wants to upset the client.

Web design

But at the risk of spending your money unwisely, delivering you a product that wasn’t at all what you wanted, let me suggest this: pause, breathe in and think about it.

Responsive is hot, buzz-y and really amazing when done properly. But a mobile version of a primary site is also an equally great route to go. Choosing which one fits best is a matter of several factors – and there’s no right or wrong answer.

Consider things like:

  • Content – do you want your entire site accessible via the mobile world, or are your mobile users simply looking for key areas and features when coming to your site via a handheld?
  • Audience – who is your target, and what is their engagement with mobile? If you cater to twenty-something MacBook hipsters in the coffee shop, that’s one thing; if you cater to septuagenarians who love playing Freecell on Windows XP, that’s an entirely different thing.
  • Speed – mobile people want information quick, easy and delivered as fast as possible…
  • Experience – is pushing your full-screen process into a small-screen world the best option? (Anyone who’s tried to fill out a lengthy form on a smartphone knows how frustrating that experience can be)
  • Budget – is your client ready to approve a significantly-increased budget to cover the design and coding necessary to handle responsive?

For me, it all comes down to two things: being smart about your users, and being smart about your code developers. The first makes the decision process easier; the second makes implementing it possible.

Good code makes great decisions work. I’ve heard clients mandate responsive because they don’t want the hassle of managing content in two different places – the desktop version and the mobile version. My question to them is: “Why not have one content system power both?” Ultimately, that’s what the client wants – ease of management – but they think there’s only one solution. And there’s not – a good code partner will tell you that, show you the options, make a suggestion and let you decide.

Don’t choose responsive just because it’s the cool new thing; likewise, don’t eliminate mobile just because something new and sexy came along. Do what good business people do: think. Use your agency and coder resources. Ask complex questions. Figure out the real essence of what you want to do – and the answer becomes clear. From there, lean again on those agency and coder resources you have to do what they do best: execute that well-thought-out idea.

*The purpose of responsive design is to have one site, but with different elements that respond differently when viewed on devices of different sizes.

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