Responsive Design: Fixing misconceptions

I’m exposed to more of the web than most people, not only on the usage front, but also from the development front. A lot of people employ a technique called “word salad”. Roughly, the spout a bunch of words, and pray that they have some sort of meaningful connotation.

One of these words is “responsive design”. Truthfully, “responsive design” meaning should be closest to “fluid design”, which is to develop a site that look “right” on different browser sizes and resolution.

One interpretation of responsive design seems to be, develop a webpage, that if the user switches from desktop, to tablet, to mobile, things will look the same, and the user will have the same experience.

That interpretation is absolutely wrong. If anything, the better statement would be mobile-tablet-desktop-friendly-architecture-with-relevant-designs. Fact of the matter, if you’re website is image intensive, 5 megabytes of image intensive, even if you employed the most advance fluid layout techniques, it WILL NOT be a good mobile device experience.

The main thing to take into consideration is bandwidth. Most likely the user is viewing the site using a 3G, 4G connection, and even then, not everyone has access to 25+ mbps wifi line.

Instead of creating one design that will magically work for all 3, I say design 3 versions that are designed for a specific experience. If you design for desktop, tablet and mobile miss out. If you design for mobile, the tablet and pc version is lacking. If you design for tablet, you’re kind of stuck in the middle, with a mobile device that has a slow experience, and a desktop version that has an underwhelming experience, since it could’ve been so much more.

I think if possible, we should stick to the terms “mobile design”, “tablet design”, and “desktop design”, and the “responsive” versions of each. If the web would adopt this, I’m sure a lot of people who do work in the web will be saved a lot of headaches, where requirements just seem to crawl out of nowhere, rendering existing architectures less effective at the very last stages of development.

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