Top 5 Myths About Responsive Web Design (RWD)

April 29, 2015

As mobile internet usage skyrockets, companies are releasing a variety of newer and more innovative devices to surf the web. These devices vary in size from mobile phones to tablets, to desktops and laptops.  Web designers now have to create websites capable of not just working on all of these devices, but responding to provide an optimal experience for the user— this is known as creating a Responsive Website.

But there is still a lot of confusion about what exactly Responsive Web Design means. People often don’t understand the nuances of the different use-cases for each device and how to best deliver information. This is made worse by the fact that many developers still struggle to understand the best practices for Responsive Web Design, and how to execute a seamless experience.

I’d like to expose some of the top myths about Responsive Web Design, and offer some perspective to the realities.

  1. Myth 1: RWD is Only for Mobile Devices
    Although many people associate Responsive Web Design with just mobile, that is not its sole focus. RWD is meant to encompass and accommodate all internet-enabled devices in all scenarios. This means that it should fit on any size monitor, screen or device, at any aspect ratio or scale, utilizing any type of Internet connection. Responsive Web Design, as opposed to Adaptive Web Design (which we will cover in another post), should deliver a user interface, design, and content assets that respond seamlessly to the specific needs, requirements and limitations of any web-enabled device in whatever situation it is in. With the proliferation of new devices, a great deal of planning and thought needs to be applied to the user experience for each screen type long before a website is designed or built.
  2. Myth 2: RWD should look the same on every platform
    From a branding perspective, it’s generally a best practice to maintain consistency across all mediums. However, that does not mean forcing a square peg into a round hole for the sake of the brand. A Responsive design does not have to look the same on every platform. In fact, if it does, then most likely it is failing to take advantage of the unique requirements, advantages, limitations, and use-cases of any given device. There should be an overarching style guide so that a user feels familiarity and knows they are in the right place, but each device should have unique nuances in experience, layout, and content prioritization. More specifically, RWD should maintain its ratio integrity until the monitor defies it. An example would be to fit a horizontal design onto a vertical monitor. The integrity of the horizontal design should remain until a new scenario is presented, such as when a vertical display needs to be taken into account.
  3. Myth 3: Responsive Designs are Compatible with Any Browser
    Unfortunately, RWD is a relatively new concept, brought upon by the invention of smartphones and tablets. RWD only works with web browsers created since that time. Specifically, browsers that support media queries. All modern browsers have no problem with this, including Chrome, Firefox, Safari and the latest version of Internet Explorer— however older web browsers such as IE8 do not support this feature, and therefore will not follow Responsive instructions embedded in the website. But doesn’t this fundamentally break the concept of Responsive Web Design? Isn’t it supposed to take all possible device and browser permutations into account for an optimal experience? Yes, and you can take it up with Microsoft.
  4. Myth 4: RWD and SEO aren’t related
    Many people believe that RWD is simply a “nice-to-have” right now and that if their website doesn’t have a lot of mobile traffic then it doesn’t really matter. But Google is changing all of that, and are tying the algorithm of their search engine to your site’s ability to function well on mobile devices https://developers.google.com/webmasters/mobile-sites/mobile-seo/. Google prefers websites that are optimized for any device that their customers might be searching on, and are going to give preferential treatment to sites that will work anywhere. Google does not want their users to have a bad experience using their products by clicking a link from their search engine and landing on a website that doesn’t work for them. So RWD will have a dramatic effect on how your website ranks in search engines.
  5. Myth 5: The Cost for RWD is really expensive
    Although a lot more time and consideration have to go into developing a Responsive Web Design, tools and technology have been accelerating rapidly to make it a less expensive endeavour. Although it still does require more resources to build a RWD website, the costs have become reasonable so that a return on that investment is far more measurable— not to mention that it will be more cost efficient in the long run as the website will last longer.

Responsive Web Design is quickly becoming a necessity for all website design. The explosion of devices that you can carry with you on the go has resulted in a huge shift in web browsing usage habits, with more people accessing the Internet using a mobile device than a desktop computer. This trend will only continue as devices get faster, more sophisticated, and unleash technological advancement we haven’t even imagined yet. Those who don’t employ RWD risk alienating users, losing customers, becoming invisible, and generally falling behind.

If you don’t know if your website is responsive or not, get in touch with us and we’ll do a free assessment.