Why Responsive Design is totally worth it

Recently (about 5 days before this writing) an author made a post detailing why responsive design is “not worth it”. After reading his article I had to agree that he made some good points however I feel like his overall conclusion was wrong. Here’s why

  1. It defeats users expectations (and that’s a good thing)

    The author makes the point that basically users want to see the same site they’re used to whether they’re on mobile or not. While I can see how it would be annoying to try to find content on a site where the layout is different than you expect, it also makes it easier to read content on a small device. Anyone who has tried to look up information on a smartphone knows how annoying it is to have to scroll and zoom around the site to click minute navigation items around the page. Assuming the designer designs an efficient navigation method for mobiles I’d say the vast populace would prefer that to trying to use desktop nav on a phone.

  2. It costs more and takes longer (no, not really)

    Yes more work equals more money, however consider the world is slowly moving towards mobile it imperative that your site is accessible on mobile devices. The problem is however if you think responsive design is the worst thing since the plague, what’s your alternatives? Give your users a bad mobile experience? (Good luck) Write a native app for ever combination of operating system and device form factor? I think the latter would be most expensive and time consuming that just using responsive design. Ultimately, if you’re building a product or service ultimately you have to put time and effort into it, allowing your mobile users to use your “desktop” design just won’t cut it anymore.

  3. Non-Responsive Designs Usually Work (If you’re lazy and you user is desperate)

    As I alluded to above, the problem with non responsive designs is that users have already started getting used to them. Now, I’m not trying to say that everyone should blindly follow what what other’s are doing, that said I find as a heavy mobile user myself if I can find the information on a responsive site I’m more likely to use it over a non responsive site if possible. For example, anyone who has used lyric search on a bus knows what I’m talking about. Pinching zooming scrolling and trying your best to avoid huge ads that move to the middle of the screen as you scroll around has to be the most annoying thing to any mobile user.

Furthermore, if you look at the authors example of his own site, how much of that information is actually useful to you at first glance? From the screen shot, the top banner, top nav side nav, social buttons and bio are all things that jump out as useless when I’m just trying to read the article. Now as the author points out himself, I’d have to turn the device sideways and pinch to zoom to get to the actual article. Sure sounds like a first world problem but one that it easily solved. How are you optimizing my experience by putting a bunch of useless items on my screen then making me do extra work to read your article? It’s a question the author fails to answer.

  1. Why Responsive design is worth it ———————— Now I’ll skip his last two points because I don’t really have an argument against them and they are fairly true.

That said, the ultimate benefit to responsive design (to me anyway) is that we can finally break away from “mobile optimized” sites. Unfortunately for modern smartphone users, most “mobile optimized” sites are walls of text with no styling as they seem to be optimized for feature phones. Most unfortunately, sites that employee “mobile optimized sites” often read your user-agent and force you to their mobile site. This is most annoying for tablet users who have a screen big enough and high resolution enough to make user of the “desktop” experience but are forced to endure the mobile view. Heck, I wrote this article after landing on this page on my 10.1” Transformer Prime.

Once designers become more accustom to using responsive designs, I think most of the problems the author pointed out will disappear. Ultimately I think as long as people have this sort of “can’t do” attitude the article exhibits we won’t see any progress made on the actual issues of responsive design and we’ll end up in 2050 with the problems of 2012.

So in closing, please don’t listen to that guy and keep making awesome responsive designs for people like myself to enjoy.