Responsive design from a business perspective

Management level in most media houses has asked for responsive design at least once or twice during the past couple of years. Some ask for it because they like the way the site goes “pop” into mobile-mode when you change the browser size.

The site going pop being a nice feature and all, it still is not a sound case for business investments.

Responsive design is partly about saving costs and partly about keeping developers happy playing around with new and modern technology. Consolidating code-bases – a side effect of responsive design – is a wet dream for developers, and it can in some cases lower development and maintenance time, and thus also cost.

As with all technology, you’ll need to find out for yourself whether it has the right characteristics and effects for your products. For that end, I’ll provide a list of such characteristics and their possible effects.

Responsive design:

  • can complicate placement/sizes of advertisements.
  • does not imply a better design than unresponsive. In most cases it does imply a redesign, though, but you can redesign motivated by other goals than responsiveness.
  • makes your desktop and mobile site interdependent. Are your mobile and desktop product similar enough to reap the benefits of such interdependency? Changes in shared code implies testing of all supported widths before deploying, which is more work.
  • usually yields quite inspiring results for developers, something to flash to management is always quite nice (note that “nice” is not a business critical feature).

Key takeaway

Don’t make responsive sites just because you can (or just because it goes “pop”.) Consider the effects and consequences of it and think how they apply to your products. Then make your call.

Responsive design can be a silver bullet heading straight away from, or straight towards you, based on which products you decide to apply it to.

Geir Berset, Aptoma