20 Pros and Cons of Responsive Web Design

Today nearly 50% of all internet traffic cycles through mobile devices. Those traffic numbers are expected to continue rising as more mobile technologies develop. On the other hand, the laptop and desktop aren’t disappearing any time soon. What’s the solution?For many, it’s using a responsive web design. Here are the pros and cons of responsive web design to consider to see if this is the right option for your website.

What Are the Pros of Responsive Web Design?

1. It eliminates a separate mobile website.
When a responsive web design is in place, every visitor is able to access the primary site. There’s no need to reprogram the site so that it can create a mobile-friendly duplicate, which can save companies and individuals a ton of cash. It also reduces or eliminates the canonical issues that may affect search engine results.

2. Everything happens automatically.
A responsive web design will “read” what browser and type of device is accessing it. This allows it to automatically resize forms, images, text, and other screen elements to compliment the size of the user screen. It will also make any buttons or link interaction on the site a lot easier to perform.

3. It stops the need to constantly zoom on mobile devices.
If a mobile user is on a standard website that isn’t responsive or mobile-optimized, then they’ll have to zoom into the page to access buttons, links, and text. This lengthens the time a user must spend on the site, which actually increases mobile bounce rates. A responsive web design eliminates this action almost entirely.

4. There is only one website update required.
When running a separate mobile site, it become necessary to update it individually whenever the primary site receives an update. If you forget to perform the dual update, then you wind up with a mobile site that is different from the primary site. This saves you a lot of time and can prevent a number of coding headaches.

5. Responsive web designs offer a modern experience.
Today’s web standards are a lot different from what they were in 1994. In the past, if a site looked cool, then you were good to go. Today is much different. Not only can a site look dated with older “cool” designs, but they may also be difficult to navigate from a mobile perspective. The updated design improves these experience.

6. There is a better chance to get the wanted content in front of every user.
Many site visitors are encouraged to visit because of an email, an advertisement, or some other link. Responsive web designs allow you to create specific landing pages for each visiting opportunity, allowing you to target a specific message to each demographic. At the same time, visitors can also navigate throughout your site with clear menu options so they can have an enjoyable overall experience.

7. The branding experience remains the same.
Every responsive design uses the same branding imagery; no matter which device is being used to access the site. This means the same brand message will appear on a desktop, a smartphone, a laptop, or a tablet. It lowers the risks of creating inconsistent actions from visitors based on the device being used.

8. The analytics obtained for a responsive website are more consistent.
Instead of blending 2-3 sets of analytics into one comprehensive report, a responsive web design allows you to view your overall traffic from a single resource. This makes it easier to calculate your ROI, calculate the effectiveness of your productivity, and manage your metrics.

9. Responsiveness is much easier to market.
You don’t have to worry about creating different sets of marketing materials with a responsive web design. Mobile users don’t need mobile links. You can just send everyone to whatever landing page you want and the responsiveness of the website will optimize the experience for every visitor.

10. Social sharing is available more often in a responsive design.
Social sharing allows mobile users to share your content with their networks more often when a design is responsive. Just a couple touches is all it takes to put your new content onto Facebook, Twitter, or another preferred platform. The responsiveness also allows shared content from networks to be more readily viewed by those who are not familiar with a site’s branding.

11. Responsiveness can help brands get a competitive boost.
Some estimates place the number of websites with an effective responsive design at just 2%. That means your brand has the opportunity right now to create a positive point of separation from the rest of the competition. If your website is responsive and your competitor’s is not, then you have the best possible opportunity to expand your traffic.

What are the Cons of Responsive Web Design?

1. It may make certain portions of the website unavailable to mobile users.
Responsive templates and designs sometimes force web components to be scaled down. When this occurs, it may cause some pages on the site to become inaccessible to the mobile user. This was never really an issue for sites that used a separate mobile site or forced mobile users to use the desktop/laptop version. It may have been difficult to read, but that’s better than not being able to read it at all.

2. Responsive websites may take longer to load.
The issue of loading time typically occurs on sites that have a lot of images or content that must be rescaled to mobile sizes. These rescaled items are not optimized for loading times either. So this means there is the rescaling time and the loading time to endure, which creates a noticeable lag of 2-5 seconds on mobile devices. This becomes even more pronounced when using 3G/4G networks instead of Wi-Fi.

3. Most responsive sites stack content vertically.
Vertical stacking allows mobile users a better opportunity to access the data they need. It also forces users to scroll through pages, which can make it easier to miss the data that is needed. This occurs most often when there is an extensive amount of data on a page, forcing the mobile user to have a long scrolling session.

4. Some users may not be able to access the site.
Responsive web designs are primarily intended for internet users who are using fairly current browsers, operating systems, and data connections. If someone is using an old Windows 3.1 operating system, connecting through a dial-up connection, and is using Explorer 4.0, then they probably won’t be able to access your site. Sounds crazy, sure – but not everyone updates to new technologies right away… or even in the same decade.

5. There may be poor data adaptations to the mobile device.
Content stacking can also make it difficult to consume content for some users. This is especially true for content that was specifically created for mobile devices. Transitioning stacking into desktop content can be just as problematic as transitioning desktop content into mobile content. Always test the published content before making it accessible to all users to avoid creating a poor first-time visitor experience.

6. You must satisfy multiple user experiences at once.
Because you only have one site with a responsive design, you’re forced into a position where you have to create a high quality UX with just one platform. This means the completely different experiences of smartphone internet access and desktop internet access must be rolled into one design. It can be very easy to lose visitors because one design is unintentionally emphasized over another.

7. When the site goes down, all traffic goes down.
Problems happen on the internet from time to time. Websites will go down. When a site has a responsive design, then the entire site becomes inaccessible until the issue causing the outage is fixed. It becomes more difficult for two sites to go down simultaneously. If there are critical access needs, then some brands may choose to avoid responsiveness to avoid a complete outage.

8. Different browsers may create different user experiences.
We often talk about responsiveness from a device point of view, but we must also look at responsiveness from a browser viewpoint. There are some responsive designs that work great on all devices, but not all platforms. This has become especially relevant with recent updates to Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge. Testing must happen through multiple browsers and that doesn’t always happen.

9. Responsive web designs will not fix bad content.
A responsive web design can improve the user experience. What it cannot improve is bad content. Never just assume that a lack of traffic is because there isn’t a responsive design in place. If bad content is the issue, you’ve got to do more than just change how it looks.

The pros and cons of responsive web design show that this is an opportunity to plan for the future of internet use. There will always be growing pains involved when new technologies and innovations hit the market. By planning for this process today, your website will be ready to go for tomorrow’s visitors.

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