There has been a great debate on the concept of responsive web design and it’s long-term viability in my office as of late. While recognizing the importance of developing a great mobile experience for our customers, it is often discussed how a single site may not accomplish everything we need it to.
Every industry leader says that a single site that adapts to multiple screen sizes is the way to go. However, my platform has a large number of apps and elements that makes a responsive design difficult.
I once recommended a new design began with the phone because it was the most constrained and difficult to manage UX. The problem with that constraint is you strip away a ton of elements that may be necessary to a site’s success. Add to that my platform’s dependence on third-party integration, and we truly have a problem responsive design may not solve.
Thank goodness for this article from Luke Wroblewski on responsive web design with server-side components.
With server side Mustache-defined variables, it is possible for a single URL to deliver multiple designs depending on device type and size. That’s right, you can deliver separate experiences for an iPhone and Samsung phone.
For custom built sites, you can take a desktop design and refine it for a touch interface and return both designs without a user knowing it. Tweaks to phone UIs can be easily delineated.
SEO-friendly URLs make marketing campaigns more effective. Maintenance costs could drop exponentially. Most importantly, the debate over “m.” or “.mobi” URLs is rendered moot.
Of course, this concept is not without it’s own faults. Design detection hinges on user agents on the server side, which is not as always seamless as my developers would prefer. It’s also very inefficient to assign a variable to every single element on your page, which could be seen as necessary from the customer’s perspective if you want to ensure a truly adaptive experience.
Regardless, I am very excited with this emerging technology and can’t wait to develop some requirements to sandbox this concept.