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The saying 'one size doesn't fit all' may be true in many cases, but with the use of -- and interest in -- responsive design skyrocketing, more and more companies are asking whether that's necessarily true when it comes to web design.
The idea of having a single website, with a single codebase, that can serve web, mobile and tablet clients is a powerful one. But just how realistic is it?
When considering responsive design approach, there are five areas of consideration companies should look at carefully.
1. Information architecture
While the idea that you can have a single website that serves both web and mobile users is very appealing for obvious reasons, the reality is that currently, there are many instances in which multiple experiences serve users better. With this in mind, responsive design raises important questions about information architecture (IA). Put simply, companies considering a responsive design approach need to ask themselves whether or not they can come up with a single IA that makes sense on both the web and mobile.
Responsive design is increasingly pitched as a form of mobile SEO. And for good reason: Google likes responsive design. That doesn't, however, necessarily mean it should be a deciding factor in whether you use responsive design or not. Doing what you can to promote organic traffic search traffic is good, but if a responsive design compromises your ability to, for instance, build a mobile experience that converts as well as your web experience, you have a problem.
3. Functionality requirements
Some believe that responsive design will become a best practice in the coming years, and they might be right. There's a lot to like about approach, and as mobile and tablet devices become more capable, there will probably be fewer and fewer legitimate reasons to avoid responsive design. But right now, responsive design is an emerging practice and the number of designers and developers who can claim significant experience and chops with responsive design is still a small fraction of the overall designer/developer pool. That can make finding folks to implement and maintain a responsive design more difficult, particularly if your website requires more robust functionality.
Building great web and mobile experiences is generally a worthwhile investment for companies, and in many cases a responsive design may be the way to go about making that investment. But depending on your requirements, designing and implementing a responsive design may not come cheap; in fact, it could cost more than building dedicated web and mobile versions of your site.