Should a website be responsive or not?
Recently a company relaunched their website. They had a website made for them which is neither responsive nor offers a mobile option off to the side of the desktop version. This company is not a client of ours, but we do know one of the main stakeholders. Interested, we of course asked about the reasoning behind the project. Was it a soft launch, stealth launch, prelaunch …? Well, we learned that it was none of the above. They had simply taken a long, hard look at their users, a longer look at the needs of those users, website analytics, all the bits and pieces. Then they decided they only needed a desktop friendly website.
At first you could have knocked us over with a feather. Later it indeed made sense. It might go against Google trends, mobile user trends, against everything we currently understand about the web, BUT for this company it was an honest, researched, and reasoned decision. Should a website be responsive or not? Lately we are hearing the answer “it depends.” We are all behind websites being responsive. 100%. While we are Drupal and to some extent WordPress people, we don’t think a website always needs a CMS behind it though. Again, “it depends”. A website, and the backend, are tools. Sometimes you need a slotted screwdriver and sometimes you need a Phillips. You don’t always need a power screwdriver that will punch through concrete though …
It might seem that it’s a bit late to be raising the question about having a responsive website or not. Late last year it was known that mobile web browsing had overtaken desktop browsing. We spend 60% of our time online using social media and other web apps. Already in the fourth quarter of 2014 sales of mobile devices had surpassed sales of desktop PCs. Dozens of statistics point to the fact that we are living in a mobile age, and yet … and yet. It goes back to the original question: “Why do we build a website?”
Why does a business need a website? DOES a business need a website? What function would a website have, and would the website create added value for the business? What does Business XYZ in fact DO that requires a website, and if a website were to be made WHO would use it, WHEN, HOW, and WHY. Context. Return on investment. Client service. Requirements. It is quite plausible that Business XYZ does in fact require a desktop-only website.
Of course, a desktop website can be a responsive website and vice-versa. That is the beauty of a responsive website. It responds to the browser and device size it is being viewed on. We have heard however that some user groups were taken aback by the website looking different on their mobile phones. That pinching and scaling techniques no longer worked on a responsive site – and this made them uneasy. In fact, they became very uncomfortable using the responsive site – which meant they were unhappy … which is never a good thing to hear back from users of your website.
We shouldn’t become too one-sided in our thinking. We shouldn’t become self-righteous. As part of our thinking we try always to keep in mind that people might not be using the web like we do. They might not have the broadband or the devices we do. The context in which they use the website might be (will probably be) different than ours. There is a whole catalogue of use cases and user stories we try to design and program for. So, okay. It is probably not too far out in left-field to consider the possibility that a group of users simply do not require a responsive website.
Now. Does your website really need a CMS? :o)