Mobile Website Strategy for 2014: Responsive Web Design is not enough

July 28 2014

If you are thinking that creating a responsive web design is all you need to do to be mobile-friendly in 2014, you will surely lose users and money. There are several other factors governing an effective mobile web experience.

The responsive web design is, of course, the first step in achieving a fast and usable mobile environment, but it should not be the only goal of designers and developers. Page loading speed, for instance, is also an important factor that requires attention. As a fact, research suggests that 72% of responsive websites, regardless of screen size, deliver the same number of bytes which lowers the page loading speed.

Responsive Web Design

So, let us elaborate on the other factors influencing the mobile user experience.

Performance Requirements

Performance requirements should be taken into consideration while designing responsively.

While there is no rocket science or supernatural solutions that can be applied to every type of document to achieve high performance, there are a few tricks that can be applied to existing responsive solutions. These are as follows:

  • Deliver each document with the same URL and content to all devices, but with a different structure.
  • Follow a mobile-first strategy for a new project.
  • Perform testing on real devices as opposed to resizing the desktop browser.
  • Use performance optimization tools.
  • Delivering responsive images via JavaScript is a good option
  • Only the JavaScript needed for the device in use should be loaded.
  • Use of techniques like conditional loading, and responsiveness inspired by the group and server-side layer. Each of these techniques is discussed in a bit detail below.

Conditional Loading: One should rely on media queries in CSS alone as browsers load and parse all the selectors and styles for all devices. This means that a mobile phone would download and parse the CSS for larger screens also. Until the process is completed, rendering goes on hold, resulting in increased page load time. Replacing CSS media queries with a JavaScript matchMedia query is a good option in this regard.

Responsiveness inspired by group: Delivering the same HTML to desktops and smartphones is not the best option when it comes to performance. A good alternative is to store the same document server-side while delivering differences to the client according to the device group.

Server-side layer: Blending responsive design with server-side components is a good way to enhance performance. It improves the speed and usability of the design while keeping a single code base for everyone on the server.

Limitations to Responsive Design

Limitations to Responsive Design

Responsive design delivers the same HTML document to all devices and makes use of media queries to load different CSS and image files. This usually requires a good net connection, which is not a big deal as 4G has arrived and devices are getting faster. But there are many limitations as we look at the fact file.

4G networks are not available everywhere, and even if the whole world does have a 4G network, everyone will not be able to access it because of device compatibility issues. As a fact, less than 3% of mobile phones are on 4G connection currently. Even in the US, the number of 4G users has touched merely 22% till now.

Responsive Design as the sole Goal

As said above, this is actually the main problem: considering the responsive design as the sole goal. When designers set this as their main aim, it becomes easy to lose sight of the broader perspective involved.

Gole of Responsive Design

The ultimate goal for a website should be happy visitors leading to more conversions and the users will only be happy with a high-performance website. Performance directly impacts the conversion rate, particularly in mobile.

Once you set your goals, it becomes quite convenient to select the tools and techniques required to achieve them.

In short, your visitors don’t want your site to be responsive; they just want it to be fast and easy to use. However bitter the truth is, it has to be accepted the way it is. Also, the rule doesn’t apply to each and every website, but it does dominate a majority of sites; and hence, deserves the designer’s attention. The ultimate goal should be the user and not a tool or a technique or the designer’s satisfaction.

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