There is much talk about responsive web design and why you should have your site built to be responsive.
So, what is responsive design, is it really necessary and what does it cost?

What is it?

Responsive design is a mix of design technique and technology which will allow you site to give a good and usable representation on a variety of devices, from desktop through to mobile (tablets and phones), without the need for a device-specific site to be built for each.

It is not perfect. The idea is that the user should have a proper and fulfilling experience of the site, no matter what device they use. So although it is improving constantly, as these things do, and depending on what can be done on your site, you should not expect your responsive design to deliver exactly the same experience to your mobile users.

Is it necessary?

Well, to answer that, you need to look at your analytics. Over the past six to twelve months, how many of your visitors have viewed, or tried to view your site using a mobile device?

Another important factor is your target audience. If you know that they will be more likely to use a mobile device to view your site, then it really is a no-brainer; responsive it must be. Conversely, if your target audience would only visit your site from behind a locked down corporate network, where they have no choice but to use a desktop browser, then the answer is likely to be that responsive is not necessary.

The global stats on browser/device share are fairly clear in that over just the last year (Q1 2012 to Q1 2013) mobile browser usage has increased by more than 10% and the trend is that this will increase.

There are many sources citing similar figures and the one I used is here: Is there and extra cost involved? In the short term, yes. Designing a site to be responsive will add extra time to the planning, design, build and testing stages of the development cycle.

This is because, amongst other things, the navigation needs to be different across the devices. A site on a desktop device will most likely be navigated via point and click with a mouse, track pad or trackball and by clicking on scrollbars, whereas on a mobile device (increasingly known as a touch device) a site will be navigated by finger presses (touching) and swiping. This is a very clear difference in human-computer interaction and must be accounted for in the design of the site and its navigation. Therefore additional time is needed through the whole process from planning to testing.

In the long term, this additional upfront cost will be offset by the simple fact that as more and more mobile web-user come on-stream, you will not need to rebuild your site to cater for them. This is a clear advantage and if you already have a site but it is not responsive, it would be well worth looking at the cost of converting it to be responsive so that you can attract the rapidly increasing amount of mobile users, maximise the number of people viewing your products/services and increase your chances of converting visitors to sales.

Feel free to contact us to find out more about how we can help you, if you have a site which you wish to make responsive or if you are thinking of having a new web site for your business.

Written by Charlotte Green July of 2013