Do We Really Need Responsive Web Design?
Responsive Web Design (RWD) is the talk of the town ever since the surge in ownership of smart devices. Almost every organization wants a mobile version of their website. Similarly, in the space of eLearning, organizations are allowing their employees to access content on mobile devices with various screen sizes and resolutions. A one code base with multiple outputs is a good approach.
But aren’t we all pushing it too much?
In some cases, we are blowing the whole philosophy of RWD out of proportion. For example, one of the attributes of RWD is that the content should support both the orientations on a tablet. But, do we need that feature? Is it going to enhance learning in anyway if it was an m-learning course? Did you ever feel a need to tilt your laptop to one side and expect the content to adjust accordingly before the existence of tablets?
People are increasingly making use of their smart devices to connect to the Internet to access content and thus, that makes RWD important. There is no doubt that there are numerous advantages to RWD, and it’s definitely an effective solution to providing an optimal user experience.
But, it’s also important for organizations to consider various factors including the cost of development before they commit to RWD. The biggest misconception around RD is that it is right for everybody. In reality, it entirely depends on an organization’s mobile strategy and that will determine whether they need RWD or they would rather have a separate mobile website. If RWD is what they need, then the next step is to carefully evaluate all the features of RWD, and then decide what is must for their organization and what all they can live without since all features may not be right for every organization (or every application). Remember that the development of RWD takes more time and is expensive, too.
Some of the things that you may want to consider while evaluating RWD:
- Your organization is not yet ready for RWD if the nature of your business is such that it requires different content for mobile and desktop probably due to differentiated experiences.
- RWD development is expensive, but will save you substantially in the long run. For example if there is a need to update/add the content later, then you won’t have to change it for a mobile site separately as there is only one version of the content. Thus making maintenance easier and cost effective.
- If your organization wants all users to have a uniform experience whether they access the content on a PC or on a smart device, then RWD is the way to go. The same look and feel makes the content user-friendly to the learner, which otherwise may get confusing for the users if there were two versions.
- One school of thought advocates considering a separate mobile site that offers a scaled-down version of its content with its own unique web address (m.website). The key advantage to this approach is that these mobile specific sites perform very well in terms of speed. RWD’s response to this is that its design treats the CSS in such a way that it creates enough intelligence in the code that it’s able to determine the device size and adjust the content layout accordingly. This approach of device detection solves the problem of performance issues to a large extent.
- Due to the nature of your business, if your website has advertisements popping up then you may want to stay away from RWD unless those advertisements support RWD, too. RWD makes it hard to adjust the advertisement content as per the device.
- For an end user, RWD may mean automatic content adjustment as per the device. But there is a lot work involved and decisions taken at the time of design/development on how content will scale and shift as screen sizes vary. This requires very high-end visual, content and instructional experts. And, anything that is “high-end” means high cost, too.
The bottom-line is that if your organization is providing services/features that may not be available easily on mobile, then you may want to stay away from the RWD philosophy.
Instead, maintain a separate mobile site.
However, if you are looking for a uniform user experience on all devices, easy maintenance, economical in the long run (remember that the initial development cost is high), then you should embrace RWD. You could even adopt both: the RWD approach as well as maintain a separate mobile website. This depends on your organization’s mobile strategy.
Sanjay Ahuja, PMP, is vice president of learning solutions at C² Technologies, Inc.
Written for TrainingIndustry.com