It takes a lot of extra effort—more thoughtfulness, structure, and development—so is responsive web design really worth it? Do its benefits outweigh its costs? Is it right for your organization? The answer to all three questions is a resounding “yes.”
Responsive web design, simply put, is the act of creating device-neutral pages that do not require separate development and configuration on each new device. Said pioneer Ethan Marcotte of the practice, “Rather than tailoring disconnected designs to each of an ever-increasing number of web devices, we can treat them as facets of the same experience. We can design for an optimal viewing experience, but embed standards-based technologies into our designs to make them not only more flexible, but more adaptive to the media that renders them.” Responsive web design allows for a favorable (but not identical) viewing experience on any device.
So, what does that mean from a project management perspective? Responsive web design certainly takes more time. Layout planning requires more thought—elements like the amount of text and the simplicity of navigation must be considered—and the final product must honor the ergonomic limits of what the human eye is comfortable seeing. Testing efforts are also heightened, with constant check-ins to ensure that responsive sites function as intended. For clients, this means higher costs and longer lead times up front.
But those are just short-term costs. Over the long-term, organizations that opt for responsive web design will find themselves well-equipped to shore the ebbs and flows of device-driven markets. They will also avoid the costs of maintaining and updating multiple web sites that have been separately optimized for individual formats.
There’s another benefit to responsive web design. It breaks the monotony of a singular layout, letting users experience your site differently from one visit to the next. The dynamic nature of the design forces management teams to decide not how each page should look but rather which content is most important. This exercise alone may keep leaders—and users—on the critical path.