Is Responsive Design enough?

I get often get asked if responsive design is enough to produce a website that looks good on smart phones and tablet devices. In the vast majority of cases I would say yes; as being able to change display layout to suit the display size and type being used is often good enough.

Although, given the functionality now appearing in smart phones and tablets and their increased usage (projected to be as much as 50% of all Internet traffic within a year), it can be advantageous to do some device specific ‘tweaks’ to make the experience that little bit more engaging and easier – which all helps leads and conversion generation.

What is Responsive Design?

But first a quick recap, for those who do not know, Responsive Design is the ‘art’ of changing the layout of a page to suit the dimensions of the device being used to display it. Each display has a certain width and height in pixels and a certain density of pixels to the inch – this combined with the orientation (portrait or landscape) of the device can be used as hints when styling the page. In this way a small width display device might see a page as a long thin page; whilst on a desktop device, the full width is made use of and the page goes wide as a result. This is the essence of responsive design.

In addition you can also decide if content on certain screens is hidden or resized to fit – although I try to keep this to a minimal as given the capabilities of mobile devices these days the need to ‘hide’ content is not so pressing – rather good layout and resizing should do the trick.

Responsive Design + Device Awareness = Adaptive Design

I’m going to be naughty and coin a new phrase, Adaptive Design – this is where responsive design is combined with an awareness of the exact device being used to directly tune the page being displayed to exactly suit the device being used.

How is this different to Responsive Design on its own? Responsive design is something that happens just on the device, every device gets the same content and its down to the device to work out how to make the page fit; whereas with Device Awareness the computer serving the page knows about the device characteristics before the page is served – so it can serve exactly what is needed and no more.

Now this may seem like mixing technologies to little benefit, but it has huge benefits for the end user. Simply put you are getting exactly what you need to display with no additional ‘baggage’. For mobile users this is critical – there is absolutely no point sending a mobile user a high resolution image suitable for a desktop display if all they will see is a shrunken version of the image – it wastes time and bandwidth and will likely result in the user going elsewhere (its a known fact that if a page takes longer than 4 seconds to load there is a 75% abandonment rate). Adaptive Design can get round this problem and serve up exactly what is required in each case, without the user noticing any difference.

Adaptive Design also allows you to make better use of facilities particular to certain devices, for instance what are called ‘soft buttons’ or ‘gestures’ – this all makes it easier for the end user and hence will help with lead generation and conversions.


If you have a website which is not Responsive (i.e. does not change its layout on different devices) you need to update it now before you start losing custom. Also if your website is Responsive you need to be thinking about whether it is as good as it can be for your customers – have you noticed no meaningful increase in your conversion rate? Has it actually dropped off? You might have a poorly designed responsive website that is actually annoying to your visitors rather than being helpful.

Regardless, please contact us today and let us see what can be done to improve your online conversion rates.