Why I Value Truly Responsive Web Design
In my post about values, I mentioned how determining your values can help you evaluate how you work with companies, teams, and people.
The first on my list of values was that I value a truly responsive web design. But why?
Nate Abele alluded to a bunch of them in his comment on the original post.
What do I mean by truly responsive?
By truly responsive, I mean that the design is fluid at all resolutions and that breakpoints are used to manage the points in which a design breaks.
By truly responsive, I mean that a similar experience is provided for on all devices.
By truly responsive, I mean that similar content and functionality is provided for on all devices.
I believe that a truly responsive experience can be achieved for web sites and for web applications.
This can be hard work because it requires a lot of consideration and testing to get it right. One of the pitfalls of most design processes is that little consideration goes into all the conditions in which content can live.
For example, at Xero, we’re going through the process of figuring out how to make the app responsive and evaluating each of the components. The design work before now had compositions in Sketch for two viewports: desktop in landscape mode and phone in portrait mode. We’re just now looking at what it looks like on a phone in landscape. But also looking at all the different resolutions of phones, phablets, tablets, and desktops.
So, why do I believe in a truly responsive approach? There are certainly reasons why you might not want to. Here are a few that I’ve heard:
- Designing for iPhone, iPad, and Desktop covers most use cases and the site or application will likely still be usable on everything in between.
- People don’t use the site or application on the phone. Or, similar to that argument, it doesn’t make sense for users to use the application on the phone.
- The users would be better off if we created a tailored experience for each device.
Of course, the flip side to those:
- Things will fall through the cracks. We make assumptions in our work—which is a perfectly natural things to do—that can fail under conditions we didn’t consider. This is why cross device testing is important.
- A conference organizer recently told me of someone buying a ticket on a Playstation. Why? No idea. Users will use what they have available to them. I love that we made the push at Shopify to go truly responsive because I use the mobile site now more than I use the native app. Feature parity becomes a given. The work doesn’t need to be duplicated or triplicated for every platform. Which leads to…
- Creating a splintered experience creates disparity between cross device experiences because they’ll naturally be out of sync. Things worsen when one experience no longer gets the resources within an organization to maintain that experience.
Also, as Nate mentions, I believe the user ultimately benefits from this. They receive a better experience; a consistent mental model of the application, no matter what device they’re on; and feature parity.
Does it result in less redundant work? Possibly. There’s certainly more work in the beginning than creating a single experience for a single device. But I believe that a modular approach with responsive container queries can reduce the burden of work in developing a multi-page, complex application.
And that’s why I believe in building a truly responsive site or application.