When Responsive Sites Are Just Not Enough  

Mar 15, 2016 | Web design, Web Development

Sometimes, a responsive website design is just not enough. If you read our blog on responsive web design, you may be confused! Let me explain.

Yes, it’s still indeed crucial that you have a responsive website that adapts to different screen sizes—this hasn’t changed, and it won’t for the foreseeable future. However, the way in which a responsive site is created does matter, and may have implications for your website design.

You see, web developers can create websites in three typical ways:

  1. Two Sites – a regular desktop website – think https://www.ntnews.com.au and a separate, mobile-optimized website – like https://www.m.ntnews.com.au
  2. One Responsive Website – like the one we discussed in our responsive web design article – one site at https://cellihealth.com that works on multiple devices and screens.
  3. Adaptive Sites – a responsively delivered desktop site, tablet site, and mobile site, respectively. https://www.homedepot.com  is created in all three formats for the most responsive delivery. This is becoming an increasingly popular choice, although many, if not most companies, are currently working with choice number two.

Many progressive web development experts say the third option, responsive delivery sites, are the only way to go today – but many brands are still working off methods number one and two. If you’re looking to ditch the two site option, and go with either one responsive website or a bundle of responsive delivery sites, how does your business or brand choose the right type? Is there a specific method that will help you best achieve your goals?

With the original two-site method, which is increasingly being phased out, a site visitor is detected as either coming from mobile or desktop and is automatically directed or redirected to the proper version of the site, based on that data. As I wrote in the aforementioned responsive blog, a responsive design, instead of the previous, two-site design, ensures a more seamless user experience that will continue to stay responsive in the future as different screen sizes are introduced and developed (think smart watches and even TVs).

Choosing Responsive Delivery

The third option, called responsive delivery or responsive web design with Server Side component (RESS), operates much like the one responsive website choice above, but is truly customized to each screen size, in contrast to the one site. This is a real replacement to the two site method. When a visitor lands on your company website, they will be delivered a slightly different website based on the device you are browsing on. This is done using what’s called server side PHP, which actually allows web developers to specify the device the content will be displayed on.

How different is Responsive Delivery with RESS?

How is RESS truly different from the original responsive design option? Let’s take an example of a bake shop. On your bake shop’s desktop site, you may want an About Us description on the homepage itself, to tell an engaging story about the bake shop’s history. On the mobile device version, however, you may want to merely add a link to the bake shop’s About Us information so the mobile version doesn’t get too heavy and weighed down for your user. This is just one example of the many ways that RESS is truly customized to each type of screen size. Moreover, if you’d like to make a change to all three sites – this can be done in one fell swoop as well.

Better UI/UX Design

Responsive design also falls short in terms of UI/UX – and this is a big deal to the developer creating a quality site for you.  For instance, on a responsive site, some components that are not proper for the chosen device may load slowly and provide a poor experience. This may come down to skipping a slider that looks great on desktop but doesn’t load very well on mobile, forcing a one-image design. Or, images and elements may be illegible on certain devices. For a more complicated, media-heavy content strategy, RESS is likely an important option to consider.

Discussing Your Web Development Options with Your Developer

Not sure which method to choose? Your web developer can help you come up with the most effective choice for your company’s needs. Tell your developer what your business goals are, in general, and also what you’re looking to achieve by way of your website in both the short and long-term. Explain what kind of tools your customers need and what they are expecting from your website. Your developer and content creators can help you with these choices if you have questions or need helpful input.

While RESS is the most cutting edge way to design your web strategy today, it’s not the only option, and a responsive site design may work better for your goals and budget. The most important thing is that your site is friendly to all screens, including desktop computers, laptops, smartphones and tablets. Ask your web development expert which choice is best for you today.

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