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Here’s a joyously surprising list brought to me by Andrew Warren Payne.

The headline is entirely factually correct, these websites are not responsive. Whether they should be or not is a matter for debate, and I hope one you will take up in the comments section.

There are pros and cons of going responsive and each organisation should be aware of its own ideal site strategy. I’m sure many of our readers know the UX and hence search boost of going responsive is now growing large enough to prove worthwhile, even in the face of much development time.

See what you think of this list.

Apple

Apple doesn’t have a responsive site or a mobile site.

What does it have? Of course, there’s an app for that.

Amazon

No responsive site, but a site designed specifically for mobile devices. You’ll see the desktop site does resize up to a point, text and images repositioning if you shrink your window.

For Amazon, the experience is so different on the small screen, with such an information rich desktop version it seems simpler to design a completely different content experience on mobile.

Of course, Amazon has a hugely impressive app, too, that takes up to 30% of Amazon purchases.

Not all sites should go responsive, for some it isn’t right (and this headline may have been a bit of click bait).

The advantages of responsive lie in improved usability (although a mobile site is also usable), better search rankings, including in mobile search, through single URLs for each content item (also link building doesn’t require twice the effort).

The negatives of responsive design increase in number for big sites with lots of content. The development time to go responsive is large and the content may take a long time to load up on mobile.

BBC

The beeb has been experimenting with responsive design, with its recent interactive guides to WWI. Expect to see more parts of the site become responsive over time.

But the corporation’s website isn’t fully responsive, again being a complex and large site it has a mobile site and many popular apps such as iPlayer and BBC News.

Huffington Post

For publishers, a responsive site is helpful from a user’s perspective and hence is looked kindly upon by Google.

Again, it may be that many publishers want to compromise with a mobile site, allowing them to have lots of content on desktop, but quick load times on mobile.

Of course, more and more users will be jumping straight into articles from social sharing, which helps to mitigate some of the navigation difficulty that some publishers may face from their narrowed home page on a mobile site. A responsive site is still something for publishers to aim for in time, as long as steps are taken to reduce load time and make the user journey as simple but as flexible as possible, allowing the discovery of lots and lots of content.

Huffpo at the moment has an app and a mobile site (pictured here).

Walmart USA

Walmart Canada introduced responsive design in November 2013 and saw a 20% increase in conversion.

Walmart USA has an app (which includes an in-store mode) and a mobile site but is not responsive as yet.

Like Amazon, perhaps Walmart is an example of a retailer that benefits more from an overhaul of the site, rather than responsively sizing and removing elements for mobile.

(Walmart USA)

(Walmart Canada)

Yahoo News

Yahoo News seems to respond to the device accessing content. When I resize my browser no change, but on my mobile I get a nicely resized site on the same URL.

This will require less development time than a fully responsive site but may be prone to errors on niche handsets if they’re not recognised.

Alibaba 

China is incredibly mobile dependant but Alibaba doesn’t have a responsive site. Of course, it has the same strategy as Amazon. A mobile site and in this case a massive interstitial asking you to download the mobile app.

This is probably less annoying to users than it used to be, as more are savvy enough to know what this is and easily kill the window.

YouTube

Google sites are responsive, but YouTube isn't. Given how much bandwidth videos eat up and how much content is on YouTube, this perhaps isn’t surprising. Of course, the YouTube app is bundled with most Android phones.

Carrefour

Carrefour, much the same as Walmart. A mobile site and the Carrefour app

eBay

Unsurprisingly similar to Amazon and Alibaba. Personally I prefer the ebay mobile site design to Amazon’s. I think the ‘download the app’ call to action is clearer and the page looks crisper and better formatted. Just a personal opinion of course, and no doubt Amazon have A/B tested the hell out of it.

Econsultancy

In Andrew’s words, this site is included to ‘prevent hubris’. Fear not, a mobile friendly solution is in development.

Ben Davis

Published 17 February, 2014 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is a senior writer at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

838 more posts from this author

Comments (30)

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Andrew Kirkcaldy

Andrew Kirkcaldy, Director Of Marketing at ao.com

Great news that you are building responsive site.

Will this extend to making your daily pulse emails responsively designed?

I would expect a very large portion of people open this email on their mobile devices.

thanks

over 2 years ago

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Mark Sedgwick

Please dont forget this site, its difficult to read these articles too..oh the irony..great post..

over 2 years ago

Rob Smith

Rob Smith, Managing Director at BlueleafSmall Business

I love you included your own site, and also used the word 'hubris' :)

Good luck with the new site and +1 for responsive emails.

over 2 years ago

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Paul Hornby, Head of eCommerce at Shop Direct GroupEnterprise

Definitely agree that the title of this article is click bait! Interesting to see the sites that choose a specifically-designed mobile experience over responsive design, and in all honesty I am still in the camp who thinks responsive brings too many negatives at this time.

For me it is still too difficult to get a really tailored mobile experience and there is also too much of a negative impact on site performance for large image and product-based sites. I think it's good for some sites that are heavy with copy, but I personally don't think HTML5 is mature enough to let you get all of the pros without any cons.

All of this is obviously caveated with you having the time to manage multiple code-bases which is a challenge in itself!!

over 2 years ago

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Sarah Pooley

The debate continues - and going responsive is not always the answer - every site must be considered based on what the user needs, not what the website owner thinks they need

over 2 years ago

Grant Kemp

Grant Kemp, Omnichannel and Mobile Practice Manager at Inviqa/ Session Digital

@Ben- I usually gobble up your articles and agree with them ( for most part)

I think this is the first one, I really and totally disagreed with.

The reason none of those sites ( barring Econs potentially) aren't responsive, is that those sites are clear cases where responsive would be the exactly "wrong" solution.

Most of my current role is around improving mobile conversion for our customers and at the moment we are seeing some awesome growth in conversion for companies that do mobile right.

And responsive isn't the default right answer for all- its just one of the tools that should be considered.

@Ben- as an insight- maybe you can do a post on when responsive isn't the right solution.... ? Might be interesting to trade ideas. I know a few of my buddies in mobile who sit on both sides of the fence, so it definitely has split opinions.

Cheers

over 2 years ago

Christopher Hipson

Christopher Hipson, Customer Experience Executive at Econsultancy, Centaur Marketing

@Andrew - You're quite right, the Daily Pulse is opened on a lot of mobile devices, so we're also busy working on a responsive template for that which will launch in conjunction with the new, mobile-friendly Econsultancy website. :)

over 2 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

@Grant - why do you think responsive wouldn't be the best solution for some of these sites?

over 2 years ago

Rob Smith

Rob Smith, Managing Director at BlueleafSmall Business

You can make responsive work a lot harder these days with on demand image resizing (so you keep just one asset) and a multitude of ways to slim the code / page weight to mobile devices.

I do believe that responsive is the right choice in many solutions. The number of screen sizes we're seeing between the classic 'mobile' and 'desktop' states is staggering as well as an increase in some of the bigger sizes (1080p style) screens. I find it hard to think how a 'mobile' and 'normal' platform stand up against this tide of screen sizes?

Econsultancy though, come on ;) No brainer! Hence why you're doing it I guess...

over 2 years ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Senior Writer at EconsultancyStaff

@Grant

Yep, shoot me at dawn for the clickbait headline I'm afraid. I think I make it fairly clear I know that responsive isn't the right solution for a lot of these.

It's a good debate though ;-)

And thanks for the kind words!

over 2 years ago

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jason russell

Great post as always, but the BBC does have m.bbc.co.uk which i frequently use...Need to check for those mobile sites ;-)

over 2 years ago

James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

Hi Ben,

Thanks for the examples. The whole 'it has to be responsive' debate always draws lines in the sand! I personally don't agree that the only answer is responsive - it's far more nuanced than that and you have to define goals, needs, business case etc. before nailing colours to the mast on the 'optimal' tech solution.

You make some valid points about responsive but the decision whether or not be responsive isn't always clear cut e.g. for some businesses, the cost and effort of making a legacy platform responsive outweigh the benefits, or takes a long time to achieve.

Re the advantages:

A key advantage is in the ongoing maintenance and release costs - using a single code base (even though you'll have additional front-end dev requirements) means you don't need separate release plans for desktop and mobile, something that adds time/cost/complexity to m dot sites.

Businesses need to balance the effort and cost of creating a responsive site vs. the efficiencies of ongoing maintenance and development. Create once, publish many times can save significant £££.

Re the negatives:

"The development time to go responsive is large and the content may take a long time to load up on mobile."

You can optimise a responsive site to reduce page bloat and control page load. A responsive site can be adaptive, so you can control the flow of content so that you don't load everything up front. In fact deferring of content assets isn't unique to responsive, it's a challenge for any site (desktop or mobile). The problem is when you simply build a responsive code base and let the pages reflow to fit a mobile screen without thinking through the UX requirements specific to mobile devices. Responsive doesn't have to = identical content and page depth.

Shameless plug - we're currently writing an Econsultancy industry guide to mobile site development so please keep eyes peeled - would leave to hear feedback when it's published (hopefully by end March).

Thanks
james

over 2 years ago

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Matt Isaacs, Senior Ecommerce Manager at Perricone MD

@James

I've yet to see a fully responsive ecommerce site for content heavy products that has not been compromised on either functionality or aesthetic through one or more of the viewport resolutions.

And that for me is the key issue - its not flexible enough.

I'm also so bored already of responsive content sites in Open Sans font, using the same 12 Col grid; everything in panels of 3...

In advance of redesigning our desktop site (which is long overdue a refresh!) we launched an adaptive mobile site (same url, different template), which was so much easier and cheaper to develop. Especially with us now having a lot of post launch iterations in the pipeline, we can just work on this without worrying about how we scale it back.

We are still learning so much about mobile, that for us it is important to have seperate pipelines to some level.

Our desktop site works ok on tablets and we will work on responsive elements (nav bar, sliders etc) rather than the full grid.

Until there is more out there, its too risky for small businesses to throw too much money at this type of 'migration'.

over 2 years ago

Grant Kemp

Grant Kemp, Omnichannel and Mobile Practice Manager at Inviqa/ Session Digital

@Graham - there are quite a few things which will impact whether responsive is the right solution.

Jonny Stewart mentioned a couple but there are loads. Will pop pen to paper and try write out a top 5 list to share.

over 2 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

Thanks Grant - want to email me with the details? Could be a useful follow -up post.

It's graham.charlton@econsultancy.com

over 2 years ago

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Jonathan Setty

It's refreshing to read a piece that isn't harping on about how great and all-singing Responsive Web Design is!

As the article and comments above state; the fact is that RWD *CAN* be great, although I still feel that this "Responsive" approach is far more suited to a publication / news website, vs. a transactional website with a wide diverse of SKUs.

When a user's mindset is about consuming content the device is less relevant (be it via a smartphone on train or sat in front of a PC).

Indeed, access device can be a good proxy for intent... if I'm browsing a site for a new cycling helmet on my phone, I will expect an altogether different UX - one more streamlined to help my purchase path - with rich searchability (60%+ mobile purchases start via an in-site search), fast pageload speeds and, crucially a seamless checkout.

Contrast this with a "gracefully degraded" desktop site and my intended path to purchase is far less positive as I wait for heavy images and style sheets to load.

Whilst I fully understand the benefits to retailers in managing a single code-base, vs. allocating resource to both mobile web and desktop (and did someone thrown Native Apps into the mix too?!!!), the reality is that if more than 50% of traffic is coming via these smaller screens, these people (and their task orientated mindsets) deserve to be catered for separately. Moreover, adopting a one-size fits all approach will probably be at the expense of a feature-rich and already well performing existing desktop site. This needs to be considered ahead of investing the significant budgets required when rebuilding / replatforming to cater for all access devices

20 years ago within retail, there were no "Heads of Ecommerce"… Marketing Departments then began to diversify as online commerce became so important... The same shift is happening today with roles such as "Head of Mobile” coming to prominence at larger retailers. In my view, hiring specifically for what is an ever increasing share of mobile traffic indicates that there’s an obvious need to keep the modus operandi separate.

over 2 years ago

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Chris Turner

This debate will run and run. We have built sites using responsive design principally to save money because clients realise mobile/tablets are now standard routes to web content but don't yet know if mobile will be a big enough platform to warrant a separate site or App. Inevitably there are consequences when the CEO opens the site on her iPad and it doesn't look the way it does on her desktop.

Really, clients should commit budget to developing separate sites which recognise the strengths of each format, are optimised for the most likely user behaviour and function to enable that behaviour as seamlessly as possible. If you're Viber, do you prioritise your desktop site ?

Responsive design is like CD-Rom, an interim technology which will be superseded as smartphone and tablet-optimised sites become easier to build and maintain.

over 2 years ago

James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

Evening all,

An interesting discussion thread in the comments....

@jonny - I don't think the flexibility issue is with RWD, it's with how RWD is being used. Being responsive relates to the use of code to control presentation; in itself it doesn't preclude adaptive techniques to customise the mobile experience for users/devices. RESS is a technique that some brands (Schuh included) have adopted. I know other brands that are moving to a responsive framework but using server side stuff to control the display of content/functions, for example adapted navigation menus for smartphones.

I think a key challenge is that, according to the views of developers whose opinions i respect, migrating from a non-responsive to a responsive code base can actually be far harder/costlier than creating a response site from scratch. I defer to the tech experts amongst us for validation as i'm not qualified to comment at the pure tech level.

I still think there is too much confusion around the definitions (perhaps semantic interpretations). IMO responsive and adaptive aren't mutually exclusive (e.g. RESS): you can build a responsive site on one code base but use server side adaptive techniques to tailor the mobile experience. The goal is to maintain ongoing platform dev & maintenance using one code base but ensure the UX is decided based on user/device level needs. So you can build an entirely different mobile site, or you can make the desktop site responsive and adapt elements to ensure the mobile experience is good.

You can also do this in a phased approach - start with the critical site features/user journeys adapted to suit mobile, then roll-out other assets in adaptive versions over time. This can be one way of managing the time/cost/complexity with limited resource.

Ecommerce teams need to be practical when launching/developing the platform. It may be for your minimum viable proposition in phase 1 that you build off a responsive code base and simply opt for a mobile browser compatible reflowed version of the site so at least users can browse without painful zoom and horizontal scroll.

I know that's not 'mobile optimised' but sitting down and planning out the mobile UX and flows takes time/money. Not every business can hit the ground at that level and the adaptive clever stuff can follow in phase 2 onwards.

That said, if your core audience is mobile dominant and the competition all have strong mobile propositions, launching with a compromised mobile approach isn't sensible. Horse for courses.

@Chris - not sure i agree that responsive is interim. I think from a platform code perspective it makes a lot of commercial sense - why would you want to maintain separate code bases? Adaptive server side work can then be done to manage the UX and tailor service delivery.

I think the separate m dot site is the one that has numbered days, although in some situations it may actually be the best fit for the business....and there's another long discussion to be had:)

Keep the comments coming, it's a really interesting area to discuss.

Thanks
james

over 2 years ago

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Matt Isaacs, Senior Ecommerce Manager at Perricone MD

@James

Really great points.

I would definitely agree, re 'definitions'.

For us definitions are irrevelant as we should be looking at solutions that fit the problem, not just 'doing whatever the market leader is doing'.

However, where defintions become a problem is when senior stakeholders get involved and start to say 'hey, everybody is going responsive - why aren't we responsive?'... even though you technically already are through server-side techniques.

Most people I know think of it as the 'shrinking window' framework, which for me at this moment in time is very limited.

over 2 years ago

James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

Hi Jonny,

Yep and that's the problem with trends!

I've heard the "Everyone is going responsive" argument for going responsive. Dangerous when there is no commercial/tech rationale behind it. Crazy in fact.

We're currently working on an Econsultancy good practice guide in this area - would you care to contribute some comments/quotes?

I could send across the draft of the section on responsive before it goes live and if you feel you have something to add, we could include a quote. Each quote is referenced with name, position, company.

We use quotes to communicate the voice of experienced people working in the industry to provide their personal perspective. This is a really useful addition to the good practice advice in the core report.

Let me know - feel free to drop me a line james@digitaljuggler.com

cheers
james

over 2 years ago

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Ryan Webb

@Ben - I have to say I agree wholeheartedly with Grant. I'm in the camp who think RWD is just one of the options available and not right for everyone. Do you seriously think the BBC will roll out RWD in the future?? They might release some elements that are responsive, but I personally think their "adaptive" solution is fantastic and now delivers a great user experience. I also think the way they do device detection and have different solutions for various screen sizes mean that they deserve a bit more credit than just being referred to as a "mobile site"!

@James - We produced a short guide to the options available for mobile just over a year ago (http://www.equimedia.co.uk/ideas/blog/5-ways-to-go-mobile.html) plus we're just about to set a RWD sales funnel solution live for a financial services company. I'll drop you an email about both and would love to add my thoughts to the debate in your upcoming guide.

over 2 years ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Senior Writer at EconsultancyStaff

@Ryan

RE the BBC, I agree with you. Mightn't be that clear in my article, as I whipped through the sites.

Thanks for commenting and the link.

over 2 years ago

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Haseeb Shaik

Nice article ! However essentially the answer lies in what satisfies the user.

In case of Amazon and BBC - These brands do not necessary need to attract 'new' users through organic search. Their brands are so strong both online and in users perception that they will get new users through different channels and naturally. Hence for such brands 'user experience' and performance are far more important than other aspects.

However for other brands which rely on organic traffic and operate in competitive space, for them separate mobile site comes with both costs and challenges. At the same time 'responsive does come with user experience and performance issues' agree with @Paul Hornby that HTML5 is not yet matured.

However Smartphones and tablets browsing abilities (technical abilities) are only going to get better. I can relate this to IE and Netscape (and later Firefox) wars...where developers used CSS hacks to create cross browser compatible websites...when looked from a 'Technology' perspective it is similar to IE vs Netscape war...with time and improved technologies...one single unified URL which would cater all devices...i.e users

over 2 years ago

Ashley Friedlein

Ashley Friedlein, Founder, Econsultancy & President, Centaur Marketing at Econsultancy, Centaur MarketingStaff

@James For our guide... I think it is important to talk to developers/techies too. You make a valid point, that I also here from techies I trust, that it is much easier/quicker/preferable to do RWD if you are doing it 'from scratch' than if you try and 'layer it on' to an existing site.

The CSS and HTML is much better and easier if done properly from the ground up than hacking away at what is probably already a mess. From an ROI point of view there is a strong argument for starting from scratch even it delays implementation because the ongoing costs of maintenance will be much lower.

That's our excuse for why it is seems to have taken Econsultancy so long to actually have a responsive site... ;)

over 2 years ago

Grant Kemp

Grant Kemp, Omnichannel and Mobile Practice Manager at Inviqa/ Session Digital

@Ashley - That is partially true. ( But only partially) It does make sense to restart from scratch if you have decided to go for RWD as it will impact your desktop journey and performance.

I prefer to go for a data driven approach to rolling out. You can restrict the RWD implementation to one platform( eg mobile) only and verify if it hits your metrics and you are still achieving your KPIs. You can also test and verify any things you aren't sure about.

If it does then you can roll the desktop and tablet journey and roll back if it causes havock with your conversion rate. ( which RWD may do at the beginning)

Another strategy is to experiment with testing the mobile features using an RMD if you aren't sure but implement the responsive template. It will let you get a mobile site out in a few weeks and start learning on mobile.

Some companies like Tesco end up sticking to the RMD and was recently featured in another blog for its success.

Hope this helps?

over 2 years ago

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Matt Isaacs, Senior Ecommerce Manager at Perricone MD

@Ashley

Aside from budgets, etc though there is still the question of UX.

I still find myself searching for the "Desktop Site" link on many mobile or tablet optimised websites, because I can't find something or the experience has become compromised.

With many sites that have utilised front-end RWD this option to switch back is no longer available, which means:

1) My user experience is poor
2) The website owner has more difficulty tracking when this has happened can might not be able to fix the problem

Aside from that there are all sorts of other issues that could affect UX if not tackled correctly, such as loading redundant or bloated resources that will affect page speed, compromising on style or resolution, even more limited font choice, etc.

over 2 years ago

Ashley Friedlein

Ashley Friedlein, Founder, Econsultancy & President, Centaur Marketing at Econsultancy, Centaur MarketingStaff

@Jonny

Yes, you make a good point. Doing mobile badly is worse than not doing it all. I often use Chrome's 'Request Desktop Site' feature to get back to the desktop version of a site on mobile because the mobile version is poor or missing content/features that I want/expect.

LinkedIn is one example. Their 'touch' site for mobile has been terrible. It's getting better but I still often switch back to their desktop version on my mobile.

over 2 years ago

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Tony Edey, .

I can only imagine the enormity of the task that these big sites would have to consider when it comes to the 'graceful degradation' of their desktop sites onto mobile. Makes complete sense to build something new and separate (an app or mobile site) when you don't have to worry so much about attracting new visitors through painful SEO/SEM, can afford the resource required to maintain multiple content engines in the long term, and don't want to give a second class quality of experience which can occur with graceful degradation.

I wonder what would happen if these online giants had to try 'progressive enhancement', starting with a mobile site and working up through the screen sizes? Would they even do it, or still go down the 'horses for courses' route and develop separate systems for each anyway?

Responsive/adaptive *may* be more cost effective in the long term, but if you can afford it and manage it, then by maintaining separate mobiles sites and/or apps you can ensure 100% focus on quality across all touch points without compromising the experience. It's certainly not an option for everyone though.

I certainly think you have to be a big player or at least have a very loyal user base to consider an app before responsive/adaptive/mobile, as it requires a lot more user commitment to bother to download and run it.

over 2 years ago

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Kandy Doe

Good analysis BEN.. But today most people is looking for the web responsive website.. as above website is very much popular and have good traffic. hence responsive term don't affect them..

over 2 years ago

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Penn Wooding, professional crip at professional cripple

I started using eBay affiliate marketing a few months ago and love it. However, annoyingly their banners do not seem to be responsive so do not display properly on a mobile device. You would think they would have done something about this by now?

over 1 year ago

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