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Responsive design as standard

By Harry Robbins, 26 Jun 2014

As mobiles and tablets overtake PCs as the main platform on which people view the web, the question of whether to build sites and applications with responsive designs as standard becomes more important. I raised the issues at Outlandish because a recent product that we built to work on desktops doesn’t work as well as it might on mobiles. Although the original specification clearly stated that it was targeted at desktops, it seems a shame to me that it doesn’t provide a better mobile experience and wondered whether it’s something we could do better with a little careful planning. Harry:

My feelings are that we should always aim to make a site responsive unless this is impossible or a bad idea for other reasons, but it’s not really my place to create those sorts of policies as I’m not the one who has to implement them.
Are there any developers who have an interest in CSS/mobile/responsivness who could let me know what we want to do about this and what we should be saying to clients?
Matt Crow (Lead designer):
Sounds groovy.
Tamlyn Rhodes (CTO):

It’s a considerable amount of work to make a site responsive, especially an app-like one like that.

I would certainly like all our sites to be more thoroughly designed and tested on different devices but it frequently comes down to time and money.

The worst kind of site is a partially responsive one: the site width scales to the device but the design hasn’t been optimised for it. A lot of our sites are like that since foundation gives the illusion of doing responsive design for free. In such cases I think it’s much better to just show a desktop sized site to mobile users and let them do the zooming. That means not using the viewport meta.

So there you have it – we’d like to do it but it costs time/money and isn’t suitable for all applications so before you list it as a ‘must have’ requirement, think about what else you’d be willing to sacrifice, what advantages it brings, and if there’s another way to achieve similar outcomes.