Responsive design is the newest “trend” to take the website design world by storm.
Responsive web design means that the website loads with equal content and same design irrespective of the device on which it is viewed; the design language and content remains consistent on the desktop as well as on a mobile device or a tablet.
There is no separate “mobile version” or “tablet version” of the site.
The code is designed to automatically adapt itself depending on the device it is being viewed on to provide a rich and seamless experience for the customer.
Unfortunately, that has not been the case for most sites that have implemented Responsive Design.
Barring the absolutely latest generation of devices, which due to their prohibitive expenses are out of the reach of most consumers, these sites are plagued with performance issues that make the website nigh on unusable.
There are multiple factors associated with this conundrum we face that implanting a technology intended to elevate the user experience ends up absolutely killing it instead.
At the Absolute Low End
It is known that even though almost all new devices being sold across the world are smartphones, a lot are not.
WAP-enabled devices that run on JAVA still constitute a large number of devices on the web even today, especially in less developed sectors.
Creating a special “mobile version” for these devices is properly justified and well worth the effort of doing so.
Stripping away all stylistics and non-essential elements can significantly improve the web experience on these devices.
This must be implemented carefully such that this “barebones” version is served only on devices below a set threshold of performance and not to any other devices as it will severely degrade the user experience on those devices.
A Mobile-First Perspective
Even though almost 80% of web traffic now arises from mobile devices, websites are still designed from the perspective of a desktop browser.
This has to be changed at the very basic levels of user awareness on the part of the site designer.
The design should first aim for optimum performance on mobile devices, with the desktop experience coming secondary.
In the 21st century, this is a risk worth taking; mobile users are far more fickle with greatly reduced attention spans.
It only takes one notification to take a viewer off your webpage and into a proprietary app that is purposely designed to keep users logged in.
The better your site experience on the phone, the longer it can resist the onslaughts of notifications and retain viewers on the site.
Using only the Lowest Common Denominator Tech
HTML5 can look and perform extremely sexy on a powerful device. And only on a powerful device.
For old devices running on old operating systems or browsers, these features are mostly emulated to be able to be properly rendered.
This consuming lot of processing power and memory space, something that is already at a premium in these not so high-end devices.
This results in at best an unusable webpage and at worst, a crashed device that needs to be rebooted.
So it would be best to refrain from the cutting edge technologies and instead focus on the established technologies that are supported by devices that are at least two to three generations old.
Not Trusting Analytic
Analytic can be woefully misleading in that they only record data that has been successfully served to the clients.
If your data does not show any devices older than 2013, it does not necessarily mean that those old devices are not available in the market or that people are not using them anymore.
Instead, it may signify that your website is not being served on those devices at all, resulting in a proportion of traffic lost to bad design.