When Responsive Design Isn’t Enough…

When Responsive Design Isn’t Enough… 7 May 2015, Richard Smith

Responsive design has rapidly became part of essential web design over the past three years. With the growing reliance on mobile devices and tablets, not to mention the high stakes demands of advertisers pushing content through these mediums, the need for positive end user experience away from the laptop or desktop is greater than ever. Whilst this approach has certainly became the industry standard-when is responsive design not enough, and what lies beyond responsive design as the superior option?

A recent report showed that 60% of the total time spent on digital media, is now being accessed on smartphones and tablets. Moreover, it is expected that by the end of 2015, 50% of all UK adults will have access to a tablet. This not only demonstrates exponential growth, but highlights the huge audience of users presenting greater reliance on the mobile web. Responsive design has presented this user base with the ability to have a positive viewing and browsing experience away from their desk, and opened up advantages such as:

60% of the total time spent on digital media, is now being accessed on smartphones and tablets

Consistency: Responsive design works off one set of URL’s and one set of HTML code. Rather than maintaining a number of different code bases, changes to the site need only be made once, meaning easy management of the site, and ensures all readers access the same content regardless of what device they are using.

Compatibility: Responsive sites are generally able to eliminate flash content and non-friendly media from pages, meaning a more positive user experience for end readers

Flexibility: Given that responsive design modifies content to all form factors, no matter what sized device content is being accessed on-the site will re-size according to the parameters of that device.

Responsive design does present some drawbacks however. These include:

Performance: Arguably the biggest downside to responsive design is performance. All content is downloaded onto the device whether it is read or not, and still requires to be re-sized accordingly. Particularly when dealing with large image files, which need to be re-sized and displayed, a slower page load can result in a negative user experience, and therefore customer dissatisfaction.

Design Constraints: Given the growth of content marketing, important design considerations are imperative for an effective digital strategy. Sites that use advertising to help create revenue streams, are often restrained by the difficulties of fitting standard ad units into responsive designs. Moreover, when considering dynamic advertising-this issue becomes an even greater challenge.

Template Apathy: Connected with design constraints, responsive sites are most often driven by a template led form, meaning actual content design is restricted. Authors and publishers still need to work within the boundaries of templates and placeholders, meaning their content is restricted in design and quantity. Moreover,there is the growing concern that end readers of content can become visually bored of frequently published content which follows repetitive forms.

content design is restricted

Time and Cost: Creating responsive sites comes with a cost. UX designers have to re-architect a site that satisfies the needs of users on various devices and orientations that can serve them with a single HTML file, whilst also ensuring that it will load fast and follows best practices. Design and development must work together to ensure that layout and code work in harmony at every breakpoint. Many old legacy sites now essentially have to be re-built to accommodate responsiveness within them.

The alternative to responsive design, is an adaptive approach- which ideologically focuses more on the user, rather than the browser. Leveraging both a predefined set of resolutions based on device size, along with a CSS, the AWD (adaptive web design) is able to create layouts, which are fully bespoke, and therefore 100% optimised for the device and therefore user. Moreover, even though the designs are being pre-created, for an end user-the seamless experience of being presented with the most relevant design is no different to accessing a responsive site. Adaptive web design provides the following key advantages over and above responsive designs:

Speed: Adaptive sites load pages significantly faster as the server will only push the desired content and information to the mobile device. A study by Catchpoint , actually discovered webpage response times were over 40% quicker on average for AWD mobile sites, compared to RWD.

Design Optimisation: Given that designs are being created from scratch based on user rules and resolutions – more control is held by the designer or author in maintaining specifics of font/image size, content composition, and layout. Particularly when focused on digital publications, which rely so heavily on high end design and consistency with print versions – AWD would offer the better solution.

more control is held by the designer

Flexibility: Whilst more control is on offer with an AWD, in relation to composition of content, a template/placeholder driven AWD design can still present inflexibility and rigidness – particularly when considering dynamic content or adverts. Artificial intelligence within web design, now presents a compelling solution to this issue-whereby the obstruction of templates is eradicated from the design process. Instead, layouts are fluidly created automatically – using AI to analyse both content composition and canvas size. This not only creates a layout bespoke for the device on which it is being accessed on, but also drives down manual design time of building an appropriate layout, whilst also enabling the quick and suitable construction of new layouts based on dynamically changing content. As there is no reliance of being driven by templates, greater flexibility is offered to the author/designer in creating and publishing content, whilst any new content such as adverts- can be added into the design with reduced concern.

Richard Smith – Contented New Business and Relationship Manager
Using artificial intelligence, Contented creates automated page layouts, designed and presented based on user defined rules and canvas size. Our technology creates layouts designed from actual content, without the restrictions of a template or placeholders. As content updates, your pages update, redesigning automatically and intelligently. For more information or for a free demo, please contact us below.


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