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Section 508

March 19th, 2015

Why A Responsive Website is Better Than a Mobile Optimized or Adaptive Website

Magnus Jern, President of DMI’s Mobile Application Solutions division, recently wrote a post about why mobile optimized sites are a better choice than responsive sites.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the subject matter, here’s a bit of background.

Adaptive design is based upon the notion that users should have unique experiences (i.e. a website designed specifically for the device you’re using) on different devices. These sites detect the device and other features upon loading, and then provide the appropriate feature and layout based on a defined set of viewport sizes. For example, let’s say you go to a website on your iPad. If the website was built using adaptive design, the correct site that was built for iPad would load.

Responsive design, on the other hand, is based on the principle of flexibility. The idea is that a single fluid design based upon media queries, flexible grids, and responsive images can be used to create a user experience that changes and adapts to your device. The same website will load whether you’re on your laptop or on your iPhone. Items might appear in a different order or in a different layout – but the code and the website are, for the most part, the same.

While Magnus made several sound arguments, we believe that for websites built from scratch, responsive design is the best choice for website development today. Many would argue that this debate is rooted in ideology. Designers of responsive websites believe that a user should have a smooth and consistent experience no matter what device they are using, whereas mobile optimized evangelists believe that users should have a unique, defined experience based on the device they are using.

But as technology (both hardware and wireless networks) has improved over time, the way people use their devices has shifted. Recent data states that people are using their phones constantly – the average mobile user checks their phone 150 times a day – not just when they’re commuting or traveling but while they’re watching TV, at work etc. Mobile phone usage has become an integral part of our daily lives and by building a responsive website, you future-proof your website in one fell swoop.

Magnus stated that some of today’s largest companies have optimized websites. This is correct, but we would argue that it’s not by choice. Monster companies like Amazon, Walmart, Delta and Apple were among the first to have websites. These sites were built before responsive development was even an option. As a coping mechanism for the growth of mobile and the Internet, they have created mobile optimized sites to accommodate for the growing diversity of devices. These websites likely have huge legacy back-end systems, so to rebuild these sites from scratch with a responsive design would be an enormous undertaking, and likely not worth the time and effort.

This leads us into another argument made about responsive being complex and expensive. While some stages of the responsive design and development process can take a little longer (notably, the QA process), most steps take less time:

    • Design/UX: It is easier to create two designs (for minimum and maximum browser sizes) than it is to design for multiple devices.
    • Development: It is easier to create one site with a single codebase than it is to create multiple templates with separate codebases.
    • Maintenance: Responsive is forward-thinking and will adjust to fit any sized device, while adaptive may require additional templates to be created as new devices reach the market.

We believe that responsive website design is the way of the future and the only choice for website development. It’s device agnostic, a one-time effort, and future-proof. No matter what new technology or devices emerge, a responsive website will provide an optimal and consistent experience for all users without having to put a bunch of Band-Aids over your code.

If you need more proof… see how we built the new DMInc.com.

Also, if you are looking for more reading to help make sense of Responsive vs. Adaptive Web, please download our free whitepaper today.

Anthony Pappas, President Brand Marketing & Customer Experience

Tags: insights mobile websites responsive web ux/ui

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