Sign up FAST! Login

I’ve changed my mind about responsive design

Stashed in: Awesome, Mobile Web!, Medium, Mobile Dev!

To save this post, select a stash from drop-down menu or type in a new one:

I went through a similar transition in my thinking about responsive design on mobile web. Great idea, would give you an A on the paper... but in practice, does it serve the user best?

Mobile Web pages should be FAST and EFFECTIVELY USE THE SCREEN SIZE.

That's it.

Not much else matters.

Much of the web consumption that occurs on mobile devices takes place within in-app browsers that iframe a publisher’s mobile website within another app’s experience (Facebook, for instance, opens external links within a Facebook app browser). Users directed to external sites from these platforms are typically looking to do one thing — read an article, watch a video, make a quick purchase, etc. Once that action is performed, these users often return to whatever platform or app brought them there.


Publishers have high hopes for native apps to help fill the void of diminishing homepage traffic. Native apps are much better at monetizing ad impressions, leveraging location data, and reengaging users via push notifications than mobile websites. However, the reality is few people consume news from a single native news app (and I suspect that disparity is even greater when examining a segment of the least-engaged users).

So should publishers stop developing native apps? Absolutely not — at least not until we can monetize the mobile web as well as we can monetize native. However, I do believe that equal, if not greater, attention must be paid to developing superior mobile web products. This is, after all, the first impression many readers will have of our sites.

There has been a growing trend of platforms suggesting that the mobile reading experience is broken, and that they are uniquely positioned to improve that experience by hosting publishers’ content on their own servers. These platforms argue that publishers’ mobile sites load too slowly, don’t make effective use of the smaller screen sizes, or simply don’t monetize eyeballs as well as they could. I’m not going to delve too deeply into this (I’ve already written about this at length), but I see this as a very troubling trend for publishers.

Reading on a smartphone is still a very bad experience most of the time.

You May Also Like: