Why is Responsive Design a Fallacy?

For the last few years, there has been a large movement towards Responsive Design.

So what is Responsive Design?

Responsive Design involves re-engineering your website so that the content is displayed appropriately for any screen be a desktop, a tablet, a smartphone or a large format display you might see at a tradeshow.

Responsive Design has certainly helped, as prior to the advent of Responsive Design, most websites were hardly readable on mobile devices.

But here is the fallacy…. Responsive Design simply takes the same content that was developed for the desktop and rearranges it so that it is readable and can be navigated on a mobile device.

The question that has not been asked is whether the content that was created for the desktop is even appropriate for a mobile device.

I would argue it is not. The information that a consumer requires when they are out and about needs to be more direct and to the point. If the consumer is trying to get information about a specific product, then that information needs to be displayed succinctly and to the point. Cluttering that with information such as “About the Company”, “Management”, “News” with no direct relevance to the product itself makes the experience less than ideal. But yet that is what Responsive Design does. The same applies if a consumer is searching for a location, car, person, etc.

I would further argue that the thought process one should use when creating a “website” for mobile is very different than when creating one for the desktop.

I put a website in quotes because on mobile, you should not be developing a website at all but a series of landing pages to represent the items or things a consumer may be interested in and then linking them loosely where appropriate. This is very much a bottom-up approach of thinking through all the discrete items or things of interest as opposed to the top-down approach of starting with a top-level page, figuring out all the linked pages of content typically depicted as a tree diagram.

Responsive Design is a good start to making content usable on a mobile device but the work is far from done. If you want the true benefits of mobile, you’ll need to rethink what your consumers want on their devices and adopt a platform that lets you do that easily.