Monday, June 18, 2012

Why "Responsive Web Design" Must Die: Reloaded

So in my previous post, I went medieval on "Responsive Web Design" and basically said it promotes UX suckiness because it kills...


So let me throw out a radical anti-RWD design pattern that quite literally will blow your mind.

Design one web site. For all platforms. For all browsers. Using THE SAME DESIGN.

Holy shit, Batman. I just made a bunch of web devs poop in their pants.

But look at the advantages of anti-RWD:

1. I focus more on the UX and content. Reduce it to what the content really should be at a minimum, and how that will translate effectively on different screen sizes and form factors. The resulting design decisions are simpler. I'm not going to give user X a different web site because he's on a mobile phone. I'm going to give him the same experience because that's what he or she deserves, dammit.

2. It enables you to have that "come to Jesus" moment when it comes to UX design, which is…

3. Don't compromise great UX and your great marketing message by dumbing it down for mass consumption. 

This is important. I want you to read #3 over and over again until you get it.

Do you get it yet? Go back, dude. Seriously, read it over.

OK, so now when I say: "You really should do a mobile-optimized RWD of your desktop e-commerce web site for BlackBerry screens, because a lot of your customers still use BlackBerrys" your answer would be....

a) Totally! RWD is great and good!
b) Let me talk to my BA and come up with some pros and cons for you on that
c) WTF didn't you just read what I just typed? Maybe your users SHOULD NOT VISIT THE WEB SITE using their BlackBerry phones.

I just blew your mind again, but it's really fucking common sense. 

Focus on ONE web site design. Make it GREAT on the devices you care about. And accept the fact that it may suck on some devices ... and EMBRACE that. Because your UX is focused and consistent.

And if that BlackBerry user has to jump to their PC to see your web site correctly so be it. Fact is, you made that person's user experience better by forcing them to do so. 

It pisses me off that more UX designers don't get on board with this concept. Death to RWD.


  1. "Don't compromise great UX and your great marketing message by dumbing it down for mass consumption. "

    Yes... but you do exactly this by ignoring the fact that users are viewing their website in a completely different context (ie: on the move / time limited / at a desk / on a couch on a tv) and screen size. It is entirely possible to design 2 or more layouts with the same content that will provide a better UX experience for the user than one blanket approach which at best compromises between these contexts.
    I have to disagree with almost everything in this post, ignoring context sounds like a horrible way to market a message, it would be like designing a business card for a client and then using the same design for the letterheads, flyers, etc

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful comment. In theory, I agree. Context is very important.

      But the reality is that I've seen "responsive" web sites that got the first layout wrong in terms of UX, then mobile-optimized that sucky UX. Wouldn't you agree that dev/design team should've spent their money first on getting the first layout right? And if marketing is really crucial, then focus limited client budgets on the context that 80% of your users will see your web site on the most?

      And from a marketing standpoint, I think there is a great benefit for designing the same message for use in multiple applications, both in terms of cost savings and message consistency.

    2. Yes you're correct about putting your focus where clients user base is (especially on limited budgets) but I still don't think the "fuck every other platform, they can just deal with a shit experience" approach is at all constructive. It just takes a bit of thought when designing your main layout for the main user base to consider how it can translate and how certain elements can transform to provide a better mobile experience. It's bloody easy to sub in and out a different marketing message style and/or image, etc

      An extremely simple example of this is the way mobile users generally need better access to content (as opposed to navigation on desktop) as they are commonly browsing on small screens where they don't want to be overwhelmed with navigation links.

      Solution: hide the nav and implement an accordion to show the nav if the user needs to find a different page. This pushes the content up the page so they dont have to scroll a whole lot to find it (a common pseudo-responsive problem on small screens) and still gives them immediate, top of page access to other pages if required. And you're also not going to have the user need to zoom and scroll around to avoid straining their eyes to read your text, and line lengths are going to stay nicely readable, images won't appear pixellated on retina screens, I could go on..

  2. "And if that BlackBerry user has to jump to their PC to see your web site correctly so be it. Fact is, you made that person's user experience better by forcing them to do so."


    You know what would actually happen? That user would go elsewhere, and have a negative impression of the site's brand.

    Which (correct me if I'm wrong) is the exact opposite effect that you should be trying to achieve by desigining websites?

    1. Thanks for your comment. If this were true, then Apple would've been slammed for it's lack of responsive web design, and designed a mobile-friendly storefront by now. After all, as a mobile device maker, they're totally trashing their site's brand and missing out on tons of sales by ignoring those users ... right?

      Or maybe a site's brand relies more on product or content quality, rather than whether that brand delivers a responsive web site. Just food for thought.

  3. Replies
    1. See, even my ex-girlfriends can't help but continue to stalk me!

  4. I am a web designer and feel the pressure of RWD on me... But I am still hesitating. One main reason is that I surf the web on my desktop, iPhone and iPad Mini, and I get confused when a website looks different on different devices. Suddenly things are not on my iPhone where they were on my desktop.

    I am perfectly fine with pinching and zooming when needed to. I do that also in Pages and Numbers on my iPhone.