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Group Advice: Working on an Anti-RWD Team

Published by Chris Coyier

A reader (let's leave them anonymous) writes in:

The agency where I work has never produced a responsive design. As a developer I'm handed fixed-width designs in the form of static PSD comps. I'm then expected to slice these up, run some browser tests, and push them live.

I've been pushing the idea of responsive design and increased accessibility since I started at this company a little over a year ago, but the attitude has been fairly cold and disinterested. Then, about a week ago, my boss told me that "it is more worthwhile for us to develop separate mobile sites then to spend time on responsive design." We also just hired an interactive designer who quickly agreed, telling my boss that - in his experience - responsive design just isn't worth it.

I'm not suggesting we make every site responsive just to do it, but I find their attitude hard to stomach. I'm hoping you might have some thoughts on this, whether it be how I should approach a conversation about responsive design, or just that I should deal with it and get my job done, or whatever. I'm sort of at a loss.

Perhaps you could start with something everyone agrees on. Design is solving problems. As a design agency, you sell solutions to your clients problems. You wouldn't decide upon a solution before you examined the problem, right? I hope they would all agree with that.

In the same vein: I wouldn't decide on buying a Mini Cooper before I considered what I needed out of a car. Perhaps the family will be growing soon and I need more room. Perhaps I have a camper to tow and need a hitch. When buying a car, we think about what need then choose based on those needs.

Saying "it is more worthwhile for us to develop separate mobile sites" is settling on the Mini Cooper without any consideration of needs. Irresponsible, at best.

What makes this especially strange is the pre-admission that a mobile version of the site is necessary. They know that serving a "desktop" version of a site to a "mobile" device isn't cutting it anymore. They know that they have design skills and can use those skills to craft a better experience for a different amount of screen space. But how much screen space? I hope it isn't "however big the boss's phone is."

As a multi-employee design agency I have to imagine you all have a bunch of different devices just as a course of life. Is your mobile design going to work on every single one of them? That would be pretty miraculous since they range from a few hundred pixels wide to well over a thousand. Which one will 7" tablets get? Which one will 10" tablets get? Are you going to develop a separate "tweener" version as well?

Responsive design can be a powerful tool in giving you a single code base that adapts to all those sizes and allows you to use your chops as a designer to get it just right. That's pretty compelling to me.

But it's just one way to go. A separate mobile site is another way. Native apps are another way. And that's not all. Why not make that decision after you've gotten to know the project a bit better? As in:

  • What is the budget?
  • How many people can we dedicate?
  • Is multiple code bases even a possibility?
  • How much interaction is there?
  • How is going to be maintaining this in the future?
  • Is the CMS up to snuff?
  • Is the feature set of the web enough for their needs?

The answers to all those questions can guide you to if RWD is the right answer for a project.

That's just my advice though. What is your advice for this seemingly-handcuffed designer?

Comments

  1. If I was presented with a similar situation, I would try a few different things. I would probably provide some research I found on why RWD is the best way to go – stats on mobile device usage, the various sizes of mobile devices, etc. I think the strongest argument for RWD and against a separate mobile site, is the idea that mobile devices are coming out all the time at different dimensions. There are just too many variables to simply create a separate mobile site (probably at a fixed width). Then, I would probably show them a few websites that do responsive really well, like microsoft.com, mashable.com and css-tricks.com. I always tend to ‘show and tell’ – either showing great examples on the web or creating great work that shows exactly what I’m talking about.

    At some point, though, our managers need to trust us to do our best work. Otherwise, they will dictate solutions all day long.

    • A situation like this is tough to find yourself in. I worked for an ad agency years ago and left because most if the higher-ups didn’t get the web and didn’t care how it was built. To them it was print… or television.

      For years, I worked hard to change their way of thinking, but their lack of interest in understanding the medium and producing quality work eventually drove me to leave. It sucked because a few people at the agency got it, but we were few and far between. The culture didn’t support our craft.

      Sadly, this may be the case in this person’s situation. Companies unwilling to grow will eventually disappear.

    • 110% agree with Aaron: “…most if the higher-ups didn’t get the web and didn’t care how it was built. [...] their lack of interest in understanding the medium and producing quality work”

      I’m actually experiencing some this myself and what a dose of it I’m getting, oh boy.

      The additional issue I’m facing is not only the “didn’t get the web and didn’t care how it was built.” but the “Don’t even know anything about what responsive is”.

      Good luck to all of us in this situation…

  2. The issue is one of attitude. The key phrase here is “worthwhile to us,” as if the agency’s needs supersede the client’s.

    If your boss is worried about making less money on RWD versus separate mobile sites, you should be able to quell his fears pretty easily. Agencies who work with responsive designs can charge more, especially if they bill their sites as being better suited to an unpredictable digital future.

    If your boss is stuck in the mud, you might not be able to talk him out of his position. If he takes pride in his work at all, though, he should be willing to hear you out and make an informed decision. Best of luck with this!

    • Keith
      Permalink to comment#

      The first sentence of this comment is exactly what I was going to say.

    • Lorenzo Gatti
      Permalink to comment#

      ” Agencies who work with responsive designs can charge more, especially if they bill their sites as being better suited to an unpredictable digital future.”

      We made the multiple mobile sites you asked for, and we centralized content management into the very same pages! More valuable!

      We made the multiple mobile sites you asked for, and they are so smart that they also look decent on officially unsupported/untested devices! More valuable!

  3. Another argument against responsive design that I’ve heard is that, “you can’t predict how it will look.” Some designers really, really like having pixel perfect fixed widths and trying to show that flexible layouts are actually a good idea can be a difficult task.

    • Steve
      Permalink to comment#

      And that is perfectly all right.

      I am fully in support of those designer’s right to feel that way.

      After all, the more designers like that there are in the industry, the greater growth potential someone with a more flexible attitude has.

      All they are doing is raising my rate.

    • This bunch of designers should stick to what they’re good at: print design. They should stay away from what they don’t understand: the Web.

    • Designers should be designing for PEOPLE. If the people can’t see your work, and navigate your work, I think you have failed.

      On another note, you can still use your magic pixel perfect layouts. You just might get to make a few different iterations! More designing for the designer! More fun problems to solve! Hooray! (If you don’t like your job, they you probably didn’t say hooray.) Most responsive sites still end up at 1080px or whatever eventually, if the screen allows. So you can still use your fixed width design, just not where it is useless and infuriating. I mean, hey – you can still use tables too, if you want to be really stubborn, but you wouldn’t have to code it. And on that note – if your just a designer, you don’t have to code it anyways! So you are really being stubborn, because that’s going to end up being most of the work anyways, and you don’t even have to do it. Check out the idea behind style tiles and grow up.

      It’s not just mobile. Have you ever been watching a show or a webinar while you work on a project? – and then to make room for all of your tools, you make the browser window smaler and then it cuts off the video etc. I make a case for actual browser size being an issue in my daily life. I reorganize viewport sizes all fo the time, and It is really really obvious when a site isn’t prepared for that. Most of the sites that are responsive aren’t making sure their body contains the “stuff.” (even some major celebrity designers) – You can make the browser smaller and then scroll off to the right into no man’s land. It’s not about mobile or tablets, its about websites, that happen to have browsers that change sizes. Go ahead an try it with dribbble. To say that people don’t resize their browsers is ignorant. My mother resizes her browser so that she can fill out online forms and on the other size of her screen look at some other information. But then the pages are cut off. I use logic and look at sheet music on the other half of my screen, on and on. If people would build everything responsively, the world would be much better. And hey, video websites, pay Chris and Paravel and buy fitvids.js for commercial use. Your unresponsive video site is a major bummer!

    • @Gunnar Bittersmann, effin’ 110% agree.

      I don’t know about others but I still design and build “pixel perfect” designs, but in percentages now.

  4. Permalink to comment#

    If you ran your own business, you could insist that all client sites be responsive like I do. I get a lot of cashed up tradies who use their phones to connect with other tradespeople and clients. And it’s true. The site has to work in the bosses phone. :)

    In some cases, clients ask for a non-responsive design (such as one opera singer recently who wanted a pretty conservative site). I think it’s a matter of using your common-sense regardIng client dusty.

    However, I’ve also worked for enough larger companies to understand that “change” can be a dirty word.

    As a freelancer, I get to reject micro-manager or problem clients and I keep all the money. That doesn’t happen if you work for the man. He usually gets most of the cash and has to take on idiot clients to keep up the cash flow. His concern is usually money, not quality.

    If you care about web design and want a real challenge, why don’t you go freelance? It’ll take 18 months and a few micro-manager clients, but after that, upping your prices usually sends donkeys on their way. :)

    (If I sound a bit arrogant, it might be because I am. I don’t apologies for it. I’d rather tell clients what they want because they are often oblivious.) ;p

    • thebearingedge
      Permalink to comment#

      Edwin bluntly raises a valid point! I’m not a designer, but I am self-employed. I don’t know what Reader’s attitude is toward the employer as far as respect, leadership and career path are concerned. But a real opportunity to reflect may have just presented itself.

      DOES your boss only care about the bottom line and yet fail to grasp the potential growth in clientele and revenue like many here are suggesting?

      DOES your boss have a fundamental ignorance of the industrial landscape as it pertains to his business model?

      DID your boss just hire a Yes Man?

      HAS your boss ignored progress that you have happily offered for a long time?

      DO you really want to push your boss to the next level of success only to be reminded that it is not your company again somewhere down the road?

      MIGHT you go freelance after not receiving fair recognition and compensation for opening up your bosses business to new possibility, only to compete with him?

      I suppose my hope is that you aren’t the crazy guy in the room with too much to offer. Best of luck.

    • thebearingedge
      Permalink to comment#

      But ignore the 18 months part ;-)

  5. I’d recommend getting detailed analytics stats for mobile traffic on your sites. It’s easy for a stubborn manager to dismiss “all those other big sites,” but stats really hit home if they apply specifically to your sites.

  6. Embrace analytics. Nothing helps to prove your case more than throwing a few a numbers in front of the decision-makers that show your mobile / tablet audience is underperforming. I’m guessing you have Google Analytics in place on the sites you’ve produced at said agency. GA provides out-of-the-box support for device segmentation, so even if you haven’t configured anything, you should still be able to compare a few key metrics across the segments using the data you already have.

    For extra support, learn about Goals in Google Analytics and use them to prove that your static site is hurting goal conversion. Industry statistics and best practices are nice, but nothing sways an opinion like hard evidence that your bottom line is suffering.

  7. Well, sometimes it does make more sense to go full-mobile. Then again, sometimes it doesn’t. The assumption is stupid because you’re shutting yourself off to options. Options that are, for the record, often easier. Here’s why:

    Not all mobile devices were created equal. Or the same size. What works for a Galaxy Note will not work for a 4S. So you’ll do what? Let the note have just a lot of extra spacing? Make it so it all stretches with no consideration? What about the iPad Mini? iPad 4? Will they all get the same experience? Of course they won’t. That’d be silly. So you’ll hard code a context in for each, then? Why not just do it with CSS? One codebase. One. Which is easier? Desktop, tablet and phone? Or internet with tweaks in one file to tweak? Which would be easier to maintain? To update? To upgrade?

    No, no, you’re right; three separate (or even worse, ignoring tablets and just doing desktop and phones) websites will be so much easier to work with. No, really. Go ahead. We’ll be over here. With our single code-base. Drinking coffee and relaxing while you frantically try to get your servers to deliver a completely different set of code depending on what device your user is browsing with.

  8. I’ve found sending the leadership a well thought out email containing articles from some of the heads in the industry to be very impact full.

  9. Hey there Anon… Im actually in the same situation. It’s a cold ‘fixed-width’ wall Im starin’ up at. But there’s hope.

    In Jeffrey Zeldman’s Big Web Show podcast a little while ago, he suggested a remedy for this situation was to start speaking the same language as those making the decisions.

    So, as business leaders and managers dont know the first thing about pixels, ems, and breakpoints, start talking about usage statistics, talk about device takeup and what other competitors are doing. Id start sending around some example sites that look really good, and can help fight the good fight for you.

    Jeffrey made a big point of listening to, and even memorising/learning some of the stats that Luke Wroblewski talks about in his Big Web Show episode 6 – its totally the kind of stuff that business leaders want to hear.

    That worked for me, but its a gradual process. I have been talking about the benefits for about 3 months, and only recently the CTO sent me a link to a RWD white-paper. See – now thats on their channel/level, but the message is getting through.

    Another thing I’ve done before is to re-build the front page of the site responsively, in my own time. So, you can add this to the argument, if you have the opportunity to compare how the two variations work on multiple devices. Ask your boss to pretend to be a blind 50 year old, to be a mum with two kids and no hands, and then use the sites.

    The discussion takes time, but it’s worth it. Totally get what Chris is saying about a clear need for a separate mobile site – we have one at Everguide <a href=”http://m.everguide.com.au>Mobile Site Link (Desktop site is here) (users want to find out about events right now when they’re mobile, dont want to read reviews and interviews at 9PM on Saturday night, but they would at work at 9AM Monday.

    Best of luck!

  10. Permalink to comment#

    I made a wordpress site a while ago, I wasn’t really into RWD. But i felt like going mobile so I offered the client (nice lady btw) a stand-alone mobile site integrated into wordpress (I used jQuery mobile framework). I created a wordpress page, made a page-id.php template, put some WP_queries over there and wrapped all the stuff with jQuery mobile “role=page” containers. JM site loads pretty fast and all the navigation inside is AJAX calls. As for the appearance on different devices — the framework handles this pretty easy (example).

    Today I always go RWD but sometimes a client wants mobile experience to be totally different from the desktop one: less pages, less information etc. So in fact you need to always think and use system analytics (some stuff from university, ha?) to build perfect solution for your client. Maybe you’ll end up doing a really nice web app for your client, who knows?

    And as Edwin already said: always work for yourself, that’s that kind of freedom I’ll never refuse.

    • Permalink to comment#

      I know working for yourself sounds like a big call for many and there are fallow times. Up until last year I taught web dev at Uni and I tell the kids to leave Uni, learn online (where’s there’s no politics and instead of costing $10K pa it costs $250 for Lynda or Udemy) and up their hourly rate (starting at $35/hr – which is nearly twice what they already get paid for part-time work at web hot-houses) by $10 for ten years after their first year out. It’s very easy to work out how much less you’d have to work to get the same as your boss is giving you now and it’s super easy to undercut all the web production houses because there’s only you! I understand that US pay rates are different, so maybe $20/hr on first year out and increase that by $7p per annum maybe. Imagine. You could end up paying all your bills and mortgage for just one solid day’s work . . .

      Having said that I’m working my guts out for a micro-manager client presently so it’s not all beer n skittles. I want Alex’s nice lady right now – instead of these IT idiots! Yeah – doing web dev and design for programmers is pretty gnarly.

  11. Maurice
    Permalink to comment#

    I can totally understand this guys situation. The only thing that is starting to turn things around where I work is that we are getting into mobile apps. That has provided a good launching off point for getting higher ups and clients to consider RWD.

  12. Permalink to comment#

    Similar to James, but I recommend getting detailed analytics for mobile traffic on your competitor’s sites. If your sites aren’t responsive, those with bad experiences may not be sticking around. The percent of mobile visitors on your responsive competition is what you are missing out on.

    Good luck.

  13. Permalink to comment#

    Booohooohooo, like, let’s do RWD, because it’s trendy and cool. Come on. There are trade-offs.

    RWD is 10% design, 10% “first-pass” implementation, and 80% of what I’d say is QA – making sure that it actually works (not just works, but also Works) on all the devices.

    If it only works on the iPhone – it’s not RWD. It’s bullcrap. If it works on iPhone and Android… it might just be good enough. But how many Androids? And which browsers on Android?

    I test daily with iPhone, Android 2.x, Chrome on Android 4.2, stock browser on Android 4.2, Windows Phone 8. Let me tell you. Getting “RWD” to work on all of the devices is a PITA. It is also expensive. It sucks up hours and hours of time. And then you suddenly find out that it no longer works on BlackBerry or smth. When we just had IE6 we knew all the bugs. Now we have a gazillion of IE6s – all the WebKits behave differently. And you also have to support future versions, which is not as easy as it sounds. And then you have to hack around touch vs click and all that.

    Next time you ponder this, remember – no, RWD is not the default answer. Getting the design be “responsive” is the easy part – implementing it right… put it this way – it seems to me all the advocates of RWD live in some sort of a dream world, where they don’t have to deal with actual browsers, and only get to spread the “philosophy” and “ideas”.

    • What point are you making here though? That you don’t have any issues with all the different devices when designing a mobile site? I’d say that all the problems caused with differences between devices still apply to non RWD.

    • Permalink to comment#

      Point 1. Will the mobile site have any ROI? Yes, mobile is the future, but is it worth spending all the money on it now, or can it wait until next year or even later?

      Point 2. If you know your audience is using modern phones, is desktop version enough? Yes, it is not ideal, but does the “slightly improved” version justify the costs? (I’m not even talking about “optimized”)

      Point 3. RWD is an attempt to write the same code for all the browsers and use feature detection and best practices yada yada. I call BS. Eventually you end up doing browser sniffing anyways – and you waste outrageous man-hours to avoid that, because you’ve been brainwashed that “hey, sniffing is bad, m’kay” (position:relative and -webkit-text-size-adjust; 100% CPU on Chrome because of a fix for Android, etc etc etc). Simple stupid mobile version might be enough for your customer. RWD might never pay off.

      Yes, it’s nice to build the latest and the greatest, but must of us work for small businesses. We can’t charge customers 4 times more just because we want to have fun building Teh Shiny.

    • Chris Bowes
      Permalink to comment#

      I’d have to dispute that. I think perhaps you’ve just had a look at, or had to look at testing issues in RWD sites where not enough attention has been paid to the broad range of inconsistencies in devices at the design stage. To say that “all the advocates of RWD live in some sort of a dream world, , where they don’t have to deal with actual browsers” suggests that you’ve worked with a lot of people that don’t know what they doing. No offence intended by that. You encounter a lot of ignorance when creating RWD, and people make a lot of assumptions about what will work cross device.

      As you point out, you cannot make these assumptions, the many forks of webkit and android bring all kinds of problems to the party. But that merely raises the bar, it doesn’t mean they can’t be overcome. It’s up to the developers to ensure that UX designers, digital designers and all members of a team are aware of the pitfalls and identify problem areas in design and prototyping stages.

      RWD has gone way beyond “trendy and cool”, that’s absurd. Did you think that making websites compatible for IE and Mozilla browsers was trendy and cool when browser compatibility became a big issue at the end of the nineties? It wasn’t cool to build cross browser compatible websites, it was a necessity, just as it is to build sites that work well and deliver a comparable user experience across devices is now.

      Finally, I don’t think your gripes are necessarily about RWD. Issues arising from testing across a wide range of mobile devices will be equally prevalent on a separate ‘mobile only’ website. It is up to the hardware and software vendors to achieve some sort of consistency. But one thing we cannot do as developers is create a separate website for every different handset can we? You are right to compare the variant webkits with IE6 bugs, that is exactly what developing now reminds me of. But what is your suggested alternative? we can’t ignore those bugs, we just have to create sites that deal with them. I’m a front end developer, therefore that is my job. End of.

    • Permalink to comment#

      Chris, I am playing a little bit of a devil’s advocate here, and I do agree with most of what you’ve said. Yet, in the context of the original question of this article (“I want to do RWD, but my boss won’t let me”), it is important to note, that RWD is by far not the default nor should it be. The cost of doing it well is just too damn high. And I’m advising against doing it poorly :)

      The cost is high, because of all the people you need to get involved (you mentioned UX designers, digital designers and all team members). It is high, because of all the intricacies that are not fully understood yet (it’s impossible to keep up with the amount of tech in the wild). It is high, because something somewhere will eventually break and you will spend ages to fix it (yes, that is just the reality of life and we, as FE devs, deal with it daily).

      It is important for everyone to understand that RWD is NOT “I’m just going to use the same HTML and slap on some media queries” (be it mobile first or not). It is a process and it requires hard work and it requires actual testing on LOTS of actual devices (and they also cost money…) I used to be in a position where I was saying “let’s do responsive!” – now I’m in a position where I spent a week on one single component, to make sure it works across the various screen sizes. I’m not complaining that it’s hard – delivering a good product is not meant to be easy. I’m just saying that RWD, as of yet, is not necessarily worth the investment for everyone, and this has to be kept in mind.

      Another problem, especially with agency work (I’m mostly developing in-house), is that agencies don’t usually maintain their products. That’s why we have a shitload of websites (esp. in govt. sector) that barely work on modern browsers. That’s why Microsoft didn’t want to “break the web”. With the state of the browsers as they are right now, and the mindset of developers to “forget” to include non-webkit vendor prefixes, etc – advocating for RWD is not to be taken lightly.

      My personal experience that building a full website responsively probably takes 4-5 times longer (if not more) than a simple desktop-only website. I’d estimate that building a separate (simplified) mobile site is usually less than desktop version (unless you go crazy with CSS3 and fancy features). It is also bound to work faster (was it this week that I saw that the average download for a responsive site is 2Mb?).

      It all depends on the situation – what is the expected outcome of the website/redesign? What kind of a business is it for? How many more conversions/sales/new customers will the customer get if their site is “perfect” on mobile? How often does the customer plan to update their website? Who will be the person updating the content in the longer run?

    • Chris Bowes
      Permalink to comment#

      @Dominykas Thanks for the reply. Yes budget is a huge factor in whether RWD is viable and education about what to expect and what can be achieved is paramount. Extra time has to be accounted for and I balk and walk away when I hear talk of “the client wants to go responsive so is two extra weeks at the end of the project plan enough?”

      You and I both know that RWD isn’t a modular add on, it’s inherent in all stages of the design and dev process. And don’t get me started on:

      Designers who mock for iphones only

      Small agencies testing on whatever handsets they happen to have in their pockets in the studio “it works on Android!” – “what Android, an S3? think again”

      No consideration given to overall page weight and performance on the grounds that it loads fine when viewed on a phone connected to wifi

      The complete disregard of semantics and clean markup in order to shoehorn in hidden content – often duplicated – in order to show and hide it on different screen sizes in different orders.

      I’m sure you’ll have a few other personal favourites (if favourite be the right word) to add to that list! :)

    • Robin
      Permalink to comment#

      Dominykas:

      Thank you for pointing out the fly in the ointment. As a sole proprietor, I have to make decisions about the tools I bring into play for my clients site builds. I am leery of jumping on the latest development trend since my time to absorb new learning curves is limited.

      RWD is a major paradigm change in the way we build websites and it hasn’t been effectively tested in terms of ROI and efficacy, IMHO. That doesn’t mean it’s not effective. It most likely is – for some website builds. I am reluctant to ascribe to it the one-size-fits-all merit that RWD evangelists give it.

      Web design has become a sort of smorgasbord with lots of great tools and approaches to fit all sorts of business marketing needs. Clients’ pockets don’t have unlimited depth and trade-offs and hard choices often have to be made about where to spend money.

      I have read comments by RWD evangelists to the effect that RWD is so simple you don’t even have to change your workflow and it costs nothing – highly unrealistic assessments of what it actually takes to deliver a functional RWD product. I call it the great sneer – “if you aren’t on my bandwagon, you don’t belong in the web development universe.” This attitude is not helpful to the greater community and reflects a basic insensitivity to the realities on the ground that website designers/developers have to wrestle with daily.

      I remember jumping on the 508 Compliance bandwagon years ago. I spent many weeks and months honing my knowledge on how to deliver an accessible website, reading online feuds between trend-setters on the correct approach, and trying to ferret out the best information. Only to find that I couldn’t sell it. I never sold the extra cost for delivering an accessible website to a single client.

      I found ways to work some accessibility conformance into my standard workflow but the end result was always that it upped the cost and time to deliver the product. Each complexity, each new paradigm has added cost and time to website builds. If you are working at an enterprise level with teams, you are less concerned about the evolving complexities of the “best practices” for building a website. It is likely that your company is large enough to absorb the overhead involved in terms of learning curve investment and development costs.

      For the small businesses who are dealing with reduced budgets, the increasingly complex “best practices” model presents a significant challenge and we have to pick and choose what we feel will best serve our clients.

      If RWD is truly the answer everyone has been looking for, it will be adopted in due course. However, people aren’t machines. You have to give them a chance to evaluate new tech and make the decisions that work best for them in their unique situation.

      Demanding a “one-size-fits-all” conformity in web development might be nice in theory, but doesn’t really work in real life. And demanding it with an assumed sense of superiority and a sneer for those who dissent or point out flaws is unprofessional as well as myopic. Website design and development is not a religion. It is a craft. There are no absolutes, or there shouldn’t be. Be a flexitarian, not a totalitarian.

      I am not quibbling with the OP’s question. Others have provided the correct answer – show, don’t tell – to open the door to discussion.

    • Robin
      Permalink to comment#

      David:

      You must not have read my comment further up the board. I was being a bit tongue-in-cheek in my comment that you responded to. I am not a proponent of RWD although I do think that it would be a good approach for some projects.

      I very much dislike the “one-size-fits-all” approach of the RWD evangelists and the insinuation that if you take a thoughtful approach to this new coding paradigm, that you are somehow deficient as a web developer.

      I am a small shop (sole-proprietor) and while I might be nimble, I don’t have the bandwidth to speed-learn every single new tech innovation (sofware/hardware). And my clients don’t have the budget to absorb the high engineering overhead of RWD. So, I was arguing for a case-by-case consideration instead of a blanket approach.

      I am really, really tired of the sneer and the assumed superiority of designers who promote the latest trend. As if we don’t have our hands full trying to deal with browser compatibilities, HTML 5/CSS3 learning curves, zen coding, LESS, SASS, CSS preprocessors, HTML frameworks, 508 Accessibility compliance, retina image madness, @font-face choices, stock photo research, copywriting, server configurations, platform learning curve and implementation, Adaptive, Responsive, Progressive, Graceful degradation, Adobe software release cycles, new software upgrade learning curves, OS upgrades and computer builds and learning curves, new device learning curves, Graphic design learning curves and trends, and on top of all of this making time to market and sell our wares, manage actual projects, attract new clients, network, admin overhead, $10 per hour off-shore competition, etc. etc. etc.

      The bar is getting raised so high that web site design that meets all of the specs that the evangelists insist on is no longer affordable for small businesses. It’s as simple as that.

      Anyway, I am sorry if my comment was unclear on the fact that I was not promoting RWD per se. I was trying to reinforce the idea that alot of large enterprise level builds – even current ones – are skipping RWD and implying that, as you suggest, there is likely a very good reason why they did not use RWD in the build. Which reinforces my stipulation that it is NOT a “one-size-fits-all” solution.

  14. I’ve found that code always speaks louder than words. If you have the chance and the ability, just jump into the code, spend some extra time on your own building and then showing a simple demo going towards RWD. Share the code with people so everyone can understand how you did it as well as hopefully see that, assuming you’re building on flexible foundations, it doesn’t have to mean extra months or even weeks of work. You don’t have to ask for anyone’s permission to do this, just set up your own environment and give it a shot and begin to share it around. This may make your words and sharing of stats have a lot more impact but just my opinion.

  15. Dave
    Permalink to comment#

    I’m with @Dominykas here. RWD may be the correct answer for certain cases but it’s definitely not the default answer.

    I’m getting sick of seeing blog posts/articles hailing RWD as the greatest thing ever and pointing to examples of small/lightweight sites built with RWD. Show me some real heavy-duty global websites that service many different markets with a large product catalog and an extensive collection of legacy content that is doing REAL RWD – not just a couple token breakpoints on main pages. It’s much more complicated & expensive to pull off than you think.

    Having said all that, it’s true that you do need to consider all your options when you start on a project and evaluate them on a case-by-case basis.

    • Robin
      Permalink to comment#

      Dave:

      I was wondering about this myself the other day. I have seen alot of enterprise-level sites skip RWD and I wondered, if it is the new “correct” way of building a site – why did they not adopt it?

      Obviously, as you suggest, there are more considerations in play than just “latest and greatest.”

    • Permalink to comment#

      Robin,

      Enterprise level organizations often cannot move at the pace of which more nimble agencies can (typically). In my experience enterprise is usually a step or two “behind” in the technology front. Just because larger organizations haven’t migrated to RWD doesn’t mean it’s not a good solution, however decisions like RWD could cost hundreds of thousands of man hours and millions of dollars depending on the extremity. Hundreds of thousands of pages of content, etc. It’s no simple undertaking. Many large companies like insurance, health care, have strict legal departments as well that require thorough testing.

  16. Permalink to comment#

    Seems to me like there are a lot of naysayers. Just do it, guys. I don’t charge any more for a conventional site than a mobile and tell clients that they will work on 85% of mobile browsers. Because I’m the only guy in town doing it (and everyone else is outsourcing to India) I’ve literally had to shut my site down. So . . . yeah do whatever statistical analyses you want . . . but i’m telling you, there’s a “perception” that responsive is the in-thing. My clients know what it means and have asked for it and some of those clients have less than 1% mobile visits. but I’m charging a bit more and now I’m inundated with sites.

    Go learn some new stuff. See how much it hurts.

    I’d be bored to death if there wasn’t a new thing to learn every six months or so. It’s why I left the (dying) film industry for this one 15 years ago! This stuff future-proofs your life and if you want some stats to reassure you, be my guest.

    “Yeah, only wun percent views on cell phones Grandpaw. May as well fergit it. Bizniss as usuweel. Ain’t no need ter learn nuffin new terdayyyy.” (Hic!)

  17. Alan Shortis
    Permalink to comment#

    Shortly before I was employed my company hired an agency to produce a mobile version of one of our sites. This was about 9 months ago.

    It’s not responsive, is designed to fit an iPhone and probably would have looked pretty good 5 years ago. It’s extremely frustrating when people in senior positions make these calls without seeking the advice of the people they hire for their expertise! As technology and the software designed for it moves so quickly, it’s no surprise that people out of the loop will still see mobile sites as the way, while misunderstanding the benefits and advantages of going responsive.

    There will soon be planned ‘innovation time’ in my company, where I will be given 2 full days a month to do whatever I want on the condition that I present my work at the end. A full concept of a reworked coroporate site with a responsive layout (and no flash!) is top of my list, as well as a bunch of statistics to back it up.

    As has been said above, stats and a working example are the best way to convince people that RWD is the best approach.

    It sounds like your bosses think that responsive is all about mobile devices, but it really isn’t. In my office many of the bosses use laptops with 13-15″ displays, operations staff have 17-20″ 4:3 ratio displays while all the devs have a pair of 24″ widescreen displays. There is scope top use the pixels available in a better way before you even think about tablets (iPad, Surface), small tablets (iPad mini, Nexus7, Kindle), large phones (Galaxy Note) and phones (iPhone, Galaxy, BB, etc etc etc)

  18. sike
    Permalink to comment#

    I have the same Kind of problem.
    But mine is different in the way that the budget/time don’t allow us to build something responsive, instead the option was to build some bulk jQuery Mobile version, where we only change the color scheme.

    Funny enough, whenever we tried to go a little more responsive in smaller projects, we had to come around because the client didn’t understand why the website was no looking as the initial layouts in some devices.

  19. Chris Bowes
    Permalink to comment#

    Aside from issues of user experience, time and budgetry contraints this might help: If your colleagues don’t believe you, then maybe they will believe Google. Sorry if I’m late to the party and someone has already mentioned this:

    http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/recommendations-for-building-smartphone.html

    Google’s preferred approach to Mobile SEO is responsive design. Your Agency can ignore that, but their clients certainly won’t.

  20. Matt
    Permalink to comment#

    What about taking the least complex of your clients sites and spending a few ‘free’ hours of your own time building it out to be responsive. Yes, you may have to make a number of fresh design decisions on your own but if you can get it to a state that can be shown to a client then you are onto a winner. The ‘boss’ will not only be able to experience the end result “as live”, but it will be clear that as you have the skill to deliver he has nothing to fear from getting the rest of his team on board the RWD train. That or he stays on the platform and you get on the next train to another agency.

    As Chris C says: “Just build websites”. Good luck.

  21. Gavin
    Permalink to comment#

    With a specific mobile development, will the client have to update/edit and manage 2 sets of content? Or worse, pay to update 2 sets of content?

    Responsive sites can be as complex or as easy as you wish… It might be worth building a demo with a grid and showing them the result and the time taken.

  22. Permalink to comment#

    If I would be you, I would first look into project and If it does not require a separate website for mobile (which obviously has some downsides) , then I would have a nice conversation convincing them about the goodness that responsive design brings. I may also cite some of the opinions from some famous designers out there to add weight to my point. I would suggest to not just get job done but get a really good job done.

  23. Zach Ritter
    Permalink to comment#

    So, this has been something we are debating internally where I work. We are not against RWD, but we don’t think it is the final solution for everything. Depending on the site, how you interact may be vastly different between mobile devices and desktop devices. So, there comes a time when you have to ask if it is better to adapt or rewrite.

    We are working on the concept of RESS more than just RWD, as this seems like a logical leap. Why make the browser handle things we can easily determine on the server side? Why rely on javascript to create a navagation hack when I can serve the correct nav format based on device type? Or, serve specific CSS based on device type (one desktop, one tablet and one phone).

  24. Paul Redmond
    Permalink to comment#

    If you’re opinion doesn’t carry any weight, start looking for another job IMO.

    Perhaps you could demonstrate some responsive designs in the wild, and see if that helps them consider your option as one possibility in an array of solutions.

    Another question about the mobile version…have they considered how users would share articles? What if I, on my smartphone share a link with bill (he gets the link on his desktop) you now either a) serve the mobile version, or b) browser/device sniff? Which one would be the canonical URL for google? Would the CMS publish in both places? If its static files, now the client perhaps needs you to update two sites? More $$$ for your company, but annoyed clients.

  25. Nicholas Smith
    Permalink to comment#

    At the agency I work for, it took some time to get everyone involved in RWD. Actually, both the designer and I decided to just start building new websites responsive without even telling the client. It was mainly for practice. Luckily, all the clients we did this for loved the end result, which in turn helped our boss see the benefits of it. I think what Chris said about getting to use a single code base across all platforms is the best reason to choose responsive. Maybe show your design team/boss the stats about the amount of people who use mobile over desktop as their main internet source.

  26. The bottom line usually wins – came across this last week.

    http://electricpulp.com/notes/you-like-apples/

    • I am not surprised by those numbers at all. E-commerce sites should be the FIRST ones jumping on the RWD bandwagon.

      Before recently going Freelance, I worked at a company predominantly known for their shopping cart software. Last year was the year of pitching mobile design to our clients and folks were all over it. When it comes to running an online store, saying no to a mobile friendly website is saying no to making more money (as proven by O’Neill Clothing’s test run).

      Now if only I could get restaurant owners as excited about responsive web design. These guys always seem to be more reluctant. According to analytics of a mexican restaurant website (non mobile friendly) I developed, the last 6 months show more than half the visitors are browsing from mobile devices. The bounce rate is noticeably higher (11%) too. Obviously the conversion rate isn’t as direct as it would be on an e-commerce site, but the way I see it is a chunk of that percentage found another place to eat.

  27. BT
    Permalink to comment#

    I work as a designer at a company that is still building sites with tables, let alone RWD. We’ve discussed at length divs and floats (“You just can’t rely on them”), HTML5 (“Spec isn’t finished, not gonna touch it until then”), and RWD (“Only big clients need mobile sites, and RWD can’t handle big clients”). Evidence to the contrary receives a “Then you handle the clients. You do my job for me.” I wish I knew what I could do to change their minds, or at least suggest that there are alternatives to their solution… I truly appreciate the efforts of this article, and I only wish I had not tried these methods already.

    • Permalink to comment#

      A few points I’d like to make:

      1.) You should never do something just to do something. Don’t create a Facebook page just because everyone else is. Don’t create responsive websites just because everyone else is. I understand at the end of the day the reason you’re really pushing your company towards RWD is you want the challenge to work with what’s trending, but at the end of the day not all clients need it.

      2.) Is your site’s content going to change based on the user’s experience? If so, you might want to forego your site being 100% responsive and serve them a separate mobile experience depending on the device medium (mobile phones).
      3.) Being responsive != problem solving.. This is a big one. Ensure your responsive design is actually not hindering the end-user in what they’re actually trying to accomplish. Make sure the responsive design that you are doing is actually serving its intended purpose other than just re-aligning your page and moving things around.
      4.) Responsive web design is time-consuming and costly. In the business world everything has a cost, and a unit of measurement of which the cost has to quantify for the business to make a profit. For example, in one of my writings I created a simple formula quoted for budgets:

      RWD = ( Resource Personnel x Project Phase ) x Device ).

      Now look at this tier of resources that exists in most companies

      Wireframe > Design > Develop > Content > Legal > QA

      When you quantity all those resources by project phase and then device type(s) you’re looking at a much larger picture if you’re doing things right.
      Paul Remond in the comment above also made a great point. You’d need to demonstrate the benefits to your superiors. Responsive Web Design can quadruple budget costs (easily), and is not always a viable solution, especially when trying to keep costs down. If you can prove an efficient way to incorporate RWD to your clients while keeping costs down you will have more success in moving forward with responsive design. Good luck. Start hitting some informational sources on the measurable benefits to RWD. Give them analytics and demonstrated examples as to where and why it helped companies.

  28. Permalink to comment#

    A few points I’d like to make:

    1.) You should never do something just to do something. Don’t create a Facebook page just because everyone else is. Don’t create responsive websites just because everyone else is. I understand at the end of the day the reason you’re really pushing your company towards RWD is you want the challenge to work with what’s trending, but at the end of the day not all clients need it.

    2.) Is your site’s content going to change based on the user’s experience? If so, you might want to forego your site being 100% responsive and serve them a separate mobile experience depending on the device medium (mobile phones).

    3.) Being responsive != problem solving.. This is a big one. Ensure your responsive design is actually not hindering the end-user in what they’re actually trying to accomplish. Make sure the responsive design that you are doing is actually serving its intended purpose other than just re-aligning your page and moving things around.

    4.) Responsive web design is time-consuming and costly. In the business world everything has a cost, and a unit of measurement of which the cost has to quantify for the business to make a profit. For example, in one of my writings I created a simple formula quoted for budgets:

    RWD = ( Resource Personnel x Project Phase ) x Device ).

    Now look at this tier of resources that exists in most companies

    Wireframe > Design > Develop > Content > Legal > QA

    When you quantity all those resources by project phase and then device type(s) you’re looking at a much larger picture if you’re doing things right.

    Paul Remond in the comment above also made a great point. You’d need to demonstrate the benefits to your superiors. Responsive Web Design can quadruple budget costs (easily), and is not always a viable solution, especially when trying to keep costs down.
    If you can prove an efficient way to incorporate RWD to your clients while keeping costs down you will have more success in moving forward with responsive design. Good luck. Start hitting some informational sources on the measurable benefits to RWD. Give them analytics and demonstrated examples as to where and why it helped companies.

  29. Michelle
    Permalink to comment#

    Hi, When dealing with a businesses person who is not interested in learning so they can make an informed decision, try “don’t turn away customers”. Then follow up with information about Why responsive is best, not in web terms, but business terms.

  30. Permalink to comment#

    KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE.

    I’m sure this has been stated here already, but seriously Google Analytics should be your new best friend. RWD may not be right solution, but it is a pretty good one going forward.

    I disagree that if you develop for iPhone only, that your site’s not responsive. It all depends on your traffic. If the vast majority of your traffic is coming from iOS devices, then as long as your site doesn’t break completely in other mobile browsers, you’re fine. They are the IE6 of mobile.

    If your site is a technology site, you probably have high numbers of Android devices, so test on them as well. If your audience is doctors, they likely have a higher number of iPhones, so develop for them.

    If you don’t have access to Google Analytics, GET access to it. There is NO better way to persuade management.

  31. I am in a very similar situation at work. I’ve been working at my current place for a little over a year now and there is the same idea of desktop and a “mobile” site being separate.

    We have designs come in from external design agencies and they are never responsively designed. I have been pushing for a more responsive approach but they largely fall on deaf ears.

    I think one of the problems is that the clients, management and other developers don’t understand what responsive design actually is.

    As the only UI / UX guy at the company (it’s only a small company of around 20 people) it can be frustrating to know where the current web trends are (and where they are going) but to only have these suggestions be ignored.

  32. I think that the real problem here is the whole organization of this system you are in. It’s not about getting some designs and then making them responsive. Your crew should eat some mushrooms and take a day to clean out their brains.

    The whole conceptual process needs to become “responsive.” Content strategy and simple style boards should be the beginning, and then the magic chunks of information that are formed there will drive the design process.

    Once you have these groups formed, you decide how to display them and when and where to call upon them. Toss in a few colors, a few complimentary type faces and some nicely contrasting textures and white space and you start to pull out a brand identity. It’s super magical.

    The responsive design process illuminates the REAL content. It forces you to find the core of what you are trying to convey instead of plopping a bunch of icing all over some stuff to make it look like something. Like a whole page for your contact email? Really? how about putting it in the footer of every page? Cut the fat! Your CMS will be lean and you can always throw in some cool canvas or other animations for larger screens and devices with high bandwidth to feel fancy.

    If you start the process as a content organization and strategy problem, solve it, and design as you go, not only will it save you time and money now, but I believe exponentially because you will have a super strong foundation for all future movement. It’s just a powerful structure that is dressed up for all of the different occasions – with CSS! It like your own Zen Garden!

    But hey – if you are getting paid – don’t take that for granted. I spend 14 hours a day doing responsive design but don’t know how to sell myself. Business owners seem to bring in business – so If you aren’t eating beans every day – and you aren’t sleeping on an air mattress, well – you might be the winner.

    You have to just make a killer site in your spare time and show it to them and explain it – slowly grind each person down until they crack. They will. IT IS SO OBVIOUSLY AMAZING!

  33. Dan
    Permalink to comment#

    I’ve been told that we’re not looking at responsive design because we can make more from clients selling a desktop and a mobile version of their site.

    • Peter
      Permalink to comment#

      That right there is one of the benefits of RWD design. One can, does, or should have various @media min-width and max-width in their style sheets to accommodate a wide variety of screen width ranges.

      The time spent in developing these @media styles is the equivalent of creating desktop, and various mobile sized versions of a client’s website. It does take more time, so charge for it and communicate with the client that you’re creating separate versions of their website.

    • Matt
      Permalink to comment#

      @Peter

      Obviously it depends on your site content but adding in media queries to a style sheet does not get anywhere near the work needed to create many different fixed width sites for a number of screen widths.

      By focusing on a flexible width layout, applying media queries at “content’ breakpoints (and not device breakpoints), you are catering for all screen sizes from the tiny mobile, up to the big lounge TV. If you start using percentages and rem’s rather than pixels the workload actually goes down rather than up. I reckon anyway.

  34. Mazurka
    Permalink to comment#

    “Design is solving problems”. This is the core issue I have coming across after working at a couple ideas, so many agencies and studios think they believe this but really believe “design is money”. The agencies I worked at were not in it to solve a single problem, only to make profit (which is fine if you are doing it solving your clients problems).

    Every project was the same thing. design hi-fidelity comps, get approval, build, get approval, launch, forget about it. This tired and irresponsible process is too prevalent in much of this industry. There are too few great studios and agencies doing amazing, groud-breaking work and too many snake oil salesman pretending to know the web and are stuck in a process over a decade old.

  35. JZ
    Permalink to comment#

    I guess I need to be convinced that

    serving a “desktop” version of a site to a “mobile” device isn’t cutting it anymore

    I have always felt that a page should be trim and easy to navigate, regardless of what platform it’s viewed on, and I don’t see what the big problem is with having a user double tap on a region to zoom into – as a user I personally love seeing the forest first before I pick which tree to admire.

    • Marie Hogebrandt
      Permalink to comment#

      I’m fine with double tapping on a region to zoom if what happens is that the column of text perfectly fits my phone. I am less thrilled when I’m left with either a) a bunch of space on either side of the column and the text is still too tiny to read or b) Yay, the font is a good size! …now if it would only show the entire text.

    • The problem I have most with this “double tapping thing” is when there is a sentence or block of text that spans a larger area, and then you have to scroll back and fourth like your wearing a toilet paper roll over one eye. Sure if you built your site in perfect little blocks that never went out of ANY viewport boundaries this might make a little sense. But you never know what those boundaries are going to be. Navigating a clothing store or something is totally useless.

  36. Permalink to comment#

    Threads like this still convince me that there is a place for “adaptive” web design. It also convinces me that designers are still “over designing”. When you keep it simple it’s easier to do sites responsively.

    That said, most people here are swinging between fixed width and fully responsive. You can also consider a middle path. Fixed width layouts but with a few useful breakpoints can often be coded up in CSS with less initial effort than going the whole hog and making sure your complex grids (and images/media and type sizes) flow like butter over a range of thousands of pixels. It’s possible but can be exceedingly difficult and time consuming and even the “pro’s” often have various bugs around their breakpoints anyway.

    Sure you’ll likely end up with borders/backgrounds around your container at certain widths (cue comments on “wasted space!”) but it’s not exactly a tragedy to have 4 or 5 well considered fixed layouts and media queries to set them. You get the perceived extra control (fixed width) but also get to write your code once. If you think through the content and views you’ll have no problem getting your design to be useable on a mobile, tablet, laptop/smaller res desktop and larger desktop resolution. This is the important point – it’s a very pragmatic game in web design. “Your” needs as the designer count for little compared to the guy paying you for the design and the people using the site.

    I’d imagine you could get away with a view of <480px wide for mobiles (or screens under 600px). Then a 600px-ish view as a sort of intermediate stage. Then a 760px-ish view. Then a 960px view. And if you think it’s necessary something like a 1060 or 1200 view on larger screens. All approximate and up to you to decide. When the screen is 961px+ wide kick in the 960px view for example. If the viewport is somehow 940px then serve the 760px view. Big deal. The user likely won’t notice or care if the information is visible and clean.

  37. Permalink to comment#

    I think this situation just shows that there are two types of web developers. Bread developers and real developers.

    Real developers have a genuine interest in the web. Although they struggle to keep up, they will read books, engage in hobby experiments, and you’ll find them on sites such as this one.

    Then there are bread developers, who are clueless about the web. The web is moving at an incredibly fast pace now but all of that is completely missed by them. They are stuck in the previous decade, and generally they learned a simple trick: converting page-style layouts to web pages. Mind you, this simple exercise isn’t even properly coded, the only result is an acceptable visual outcome.

    Based on the number of similar encounters I had, I’d say the bread developers are in the majority. And even more sad, they tend to win. I’ve been in many situations where horribly unusable eye candy is proposed by a design agency, and the customer loves it. Clear cases where both the agency and the client lack an understanding of the web. Good luck convincing both, even with data.

    I don’t know what to advise you, it is very common to have to battle clients on design choices, but if you have to battle your own peers so much over common sense strategies, I honestly wouldn’t know what to do. The only thing I could think of is to produce a kick-ass example.

  38. Permalink to comment#

    In the end, if the business doesn’t gain anything from a responsive design, there’s not much of a reason to spend the time on it.

    Don’t get me wrong, I feel that all my projects need to have responsive functionality in mind. Working for larger companies is a different story. Unfortunately it sometimes comes down to dollars and cents. If there aren’t enough dollars in the project budget to integrate responsive design, it has to be put aside.

  39. Peter
    Permalink to comment#

    Too many big business with lots of dollars and cents like to employ a wide variety of people, with a variety of skill sets. All the major media companies have Mobile apps, and none of the associated ROI of one website to track.

    I thrive on challenges. Here’s what I would love: take an existing major website and implement a responsive design on top of it.

    • Matt
      Permalink to comment#

      Too true.

      Implementing a RWD approach to an existing site would be tough. Not because of the hours needed in the work house but because the existing brief was probably scattered with assumptions that did not take into account multi-device browsing. It is 100% correct that some businesses do not benefit from a RWD approach – however to dismiss it out of hand is quite daft for any organisation.

  40. Billy
    Permalink to comment#

    I worked with a senior developer last year who had the bosses ear. Every time I would push a case for the need of a responsive solution for a client I would get rebuffed by the boss because the senior developer referred to RWD (and mobile solutions in general) as “a fad”. I gave up after presenting my case with analytical data for a redesign job where 59% of their existing traffic was coming from mobile/tablet browsers. Glad to say I am no longer with this “agency” and sad to say that they are still not considering RWD as a solution for their clients.

    • Peter
      Permalink to comment#

      With mobile browsers set to overtake conventional desktop browsers within a year or so, agencies/designers who won’t create responsive websites will be out of business. And those non-responsive sites will soon become irrelevant.

  41. Rose
    Permalink to comment#

    Is it possible to slip a few percentages & media queries in here and there and not mention it to the big bosses? Are they likely to notice or care when your designs will work either way? Good luck anonymous

    • Permalink to comment#

      Rose,

      This is a great way to get fired because its possible the client may see it before your boss. This can be very dangerous in a professional environment.

      At the company I work with there was a team of developers who did exactly as you said, made the site responsive without asking anyone and just went ahead and did it. They ended up having to back the entire site out and remove everything. (Yikes!!) Be careful when taking liberties like this.

    • I agree with Rose, although “…slip a few percentages & media queries in here and there…” will still require more time than planned thus pushing back deliverables dates.

      @David, if one gets fired for doing the right thing then you could demand severance pay, plus be able to file lawsuit. Even if one loses the lawsuit, the company would have had to invest more time and money dealing with it than just telling the employee to not do it again.

      I think your example is a bit extreme.

      I bet the company you worked at where the developers had to back out that site was ran by the same family “Anonymous’” boss is part of ><

  42. Thryn
    Permalink to comment#

    My advice is to read some articles and books, look at the specific needs and use-cases for this particular web site and decide what is the most appropriate approach. Then present your findings and your recommendation to your boss, backed up by whatever analytics, use-cases, or other examples you can muster. Having had this discussion many times myself over the past year (winning some, losing some) I wrote a brief summary of some key points along with a list of articles on the subject The Design Arsenal: Why responsive instead of a separate mobile site I hope that’s helpful!

  43. Jt
    Permalink to comment#

    Well first off I’m pretty sure, that unless you’re talking about a very complicated responsive design, it will take more development time and significantly more maintenance time to maintain two entirely separate code bases. So their argument doesn’t really make any sense.

    I don’t think having two versions makes sense. There are not two types of screens. There are infinity. You have to make a site that works on all of them, more and more. Mobile for many sites now constitutes well over half of all their visitors! Mobile should have complete feature parity. It frustrates me to no end when I’m forced to a “mobile version” of a site that doesn’t have all the features, even if I can switch to Desktop mode, doing so makes the site appear tiny and horrible.

    Responsive is absolutely the way to go for a website. Apps are an entirely separate thing. And as far as running a “mobile” site and a “desktop” site I think that’s just fundamentally missing the boat and not understanding where the web is going.

  44. S Smith
    Permalink to comment#

    In case someone hasn’t said it already: Original Poster, you’ve probably realised that staying where you are isn’t pushing you as a coder, and also that responsive design is here to stay. YOU know how fast the web moves. Scary thought it is, I’d say it’s time to look for a more forward-looking employer (Or yes, consider freelancing) who’ll appreciate your drive, so you start getting job satisfaction again, AND so you don’t get left behind, Imagine if you stay where you are, looking for a new job in another few years’ time but the world has moved on and you have no responsive designs in your portfolio? Argh! Best of luck getting something better.

  45. Hilmon
    Permalink to comment#

    Wow…..can, worms, opened! Great to see such a variety of well argued opinions on the subject!

  46. G
    Permalink to comment#

    Best advice? Find another employer.
    Why? The attitude of a company which quite clearly states “it is more worthwhile for us to develop separate mobile sites” is basically focused on time and money not customer satisfaction.
    I.e. “why go to the extra effort when we can quickly knock out one of our usual frameworks and an additional mobile site is more bucks on the customer invoice?”
    If you persuade your employer to take this on and they start losing money remember it’s often “last in, first out” when they’re looking to reduce staffing costs.
    Sorry if this sounds cynical but I’ve been there – It ain’t always gonna be fixed by design.
    Good Luck!

  47. Permalink to comment#

    Great article! This is useful. It should be RWD since there are more mobile usage than PC usage. Just sayin’.

  48. Edward
    Permalink to comment#

    Be sure to check out Jared M. Spool’s post on The ROI of Mobile Content Strategy. Seems to speak right to this.

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