The Problems With Responsive Design


Source: Wikipedia Commons

The more we get used to using responsive web design, the more we learn its limitations. When it first came out, responsive design seemed like the hero web design has been craving since phones have allowed us to browse the internet practically.

They had some reason to think this way. Responsive designs solve all sorts of headaches that otherwise were only solved with creating multiple versions of the same web site. But, responsive design comes with its own set of issues.

Alvaris Falcon decided to dig into some of these imperfections of responsive design. Though he doesn’t discuss the normal “drawback” of responsive web design, if you could call it that, which is responsive web design doesn’t actually save you that much time, when you include testing and tweaking for the assortment of devices out there being used to access the page.

Instead, Falcon points out another way responsive design slows us down, or more specifically slows down the web page. Fast loading times are more important than ever, and studies show that users actually have higher standards for fast loading speeds on their mobile devices. However, responsive design isn’t great for quick loading.

Responsive designs have the benefit of offering all the content your regular website would, instead of a watered down mobile version, but all that extra information, combined with the restrictions of responsive sites, takes much longer to load than those light mobile sites. There are ways to speed the site up, however.

If content is slowing you down, you can start being selective about what you load on what device by using the conditional tag. You could also opt for engineered solutions to optimize loading times, such as Adaptive Images, which dynamically delivers scaled images to users based on screen size.

Some of the problems of responsive design stem from problems already rooted in using mobile devices. The change in screen size breaks advertising models, which can be extremely troublesome because inadvertent changes in ads can also break your contract.

To keep ads placed where they are supposed to be on a responsive site, you would have to change the resolution, which you are contractually unable to do. But, keeping them large makes the ads get shifted down the page causing problems with your layout, and possibly shoving other content or ads off the screen.

Some web designers are solving the problem with ad bundles they sell together, rather than selling single leaderboard style ads for desktop sites. Instead, they include many versions of ads exclusive to different device resolutions in a package deal.

Of course, there are more than just two problems with responsive design. Falcon has three others in his article, but I’m sure plenty of others out there have already found plenty of other limitations frustrating them. What other problems do you think responsive design has?

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