A single website can be delivered as multiple site options on various devices based on screen resolution. It results in lesser development cost  along with a faster delivery time in-comparison to developing website for various platforms and devices.

Irrespective of  all positive points of responsive web design, it wouldn’t hurt to know what limitations it brings with all these benefits.

Disclaimer: I am a strong advocate of responsive web design and this post is not about showing it in a negative light. It will only help to enhance your mobile strategy further while keeping the business goal in mind.

Responsive web design has few limitations broadly categorized as ‘content’ and ‘technical’.

When we talk about content category, responsive website design limits the designer for content optimization like:

  • User Journey: Same content for all users irrespective of what device the customer might be using. It keeps the same user journey and context of content on every device. For ex., in e-Commerce scenario, a website user has a wider screen and opportunity to follow multiple steps, while a mobile user would be looking for a shorter e-Commerce journey to complete the task with minimal clicks.
  • Information Architecture (IA): Same IA for all devices. All devices uses the same navigation across all devices. It means same navigation will be offered to on the web, mobile and tablet users. In the case of a mobile user, the sitemap of a website may not be appropriate on a mobile network with limited screen size.
  • Content Strategy: Based on device, a content strategy varies for mobile, tablet and a desktop/laptop user which is difficult to formulate using responsive web design as it offers the same content in different layouts except hiding content blocks and resizing/hiding the visuals.

From technical perspective, responsive web design does put challenges for business like:

  • SEO: Not possible to optimize site for device based SEO like mobile SEO and web SEO. Google treats SEO for mobile phones differently than SEO for web.
  • Development Time: A single website for all devices does not mean faster deployment of website. To provide consistent user experience, a responsive web design needs multiple designs for different screen aspect ratios and resolutions (along-with different CSS styles and browser testing) to make it real responsive web design. All these will require higher development time to convert site in responsive web design.
  • Download time: Since the same website is being served on all devices, a website designed for a PC will take higher time to get downloaded on mobile network resulting slower browsing experience for a mobile phone user.
  • Device capability: Though all new mobile devices support CSS3, there are devices with users which are only capable of handling CSS2. Numbers might be different, but you will have to discount those users eventually, since they will see the website version on their device irrespective of how many design layouts you have designed for devices.

I know this has been a long post, but I had to make it intentionally longer to highlight the possible aspects in my knowledge to explain how it can affect your overall converged mobile strategy. Share your comments to help me to know more about responsive web design and your thoughts on it.