Responsive vs Non-Responsive – Which is Better?
responsive web design word cloud on a digital tablet with a cup of coffee

Responsive vs Non-Responsive – Which is Better?

Time and time again, there’s a question on how you can best reach the emerging demographics of visitors online by dreamstime_s_45100045means of keeping pace with technology. When fax machines had become the norm, it involved sending out business flyers over phone lines. When E-mail become the corporate go-to method of communication, it become the mailing lists and electronic news letters In the form of social media, it was having an account, and keeping it active. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that there is a race to stay ahead of engaging customers on mobile devices.


Mobile traffic is expected to overtake desktop traffic within the near future, and very likely over the course of two or more years. If a website has mobile-friendly presentations and features, it means more visitors can take full advantage of whatever the site has to offer. Whether it’s an electronic services, or  a checkout line for exclusive products, a mobile-friendly website means consumer-friendly, and sales-friendly.


What is a Responsive Design, and what is a Non-Responsive Design?

Non-Reponsive-WebsiteA non-responsive design simply refers to the type of webpage you’re probably already familiar with. It’s a static page, with set definitions on its borders, image sizes, where text is located on the page, margins, and other information. It has an unchanging layout, whether you’re looking at it on a mobile device, or on a desktop.



dreamstime_s_40706694A responsive design uses incoming information on browsers, resolution, operating systems, and a lot more to create a customized presentation. If a user is on a desktop computer, their site is going to look either slightly or dramatically different to a user that views that same site on a mobile device. It is coded with aligned text, resized images, and shuffled tables to create a more visually friendly layout.


It’s important to point out that non-responsive designs aren’t necessarily mobile-unfriendly. In fact, many websites has its own version of a mobile site that’s been formatted to fit on a smaller screen. Sites like Youtube, for example, has a familiar prefix that redirects mobile traffic to that version for easier viewing. If you were to link a video to a desktop user, they would see that mobile version as well. This can make it very simple to link mobile friendly content across mobile users, but it also means having two versions of a website, whereas the other one has a responsive design.


Why Choose One Over the Other?

Choosing a responsive design might be the right call if:


  • You want consistency. Presenting users with the same image of your company can be considered important if you want to make the investment into a professional, polished site. Responsive designs do change according to resolutions, but it also provides an overall consistent look as compared to non-responsive sites. As mentioned, Youtube does have a mobile version of its site, but that presentation is actually quite a bit different from its desktop counterpart. With certain sites, and this includes landing pages, consistency will mean making sure all of your bases are covered, regardless of what platform a visitor is using.
  • You’re starting from scratch. Make no mistake– responsive web design requires a considerable investment of both time and money, and you can’t convert a non-responsive site to a responsive design. It has to be built from the ground up to be really effective and smooth for the visitor, and it needs to be maintained to provide a consistent, and enhanced experience. If you’re building your site from the ground up, you may want to choose your responsive strategy right away.
  • Your incoming traffic is evenly split, or skewed toward desktop traffic. While mobile traffic is definitely on the upward trend, desktop users may still primarily visit sites for different products or services that simply requires a processing power that mobile devices don’t adequately cover. Streaming content websites, for example, may encounter more desktop traffic than mobile traffic. If you notice an even split in where your traffic comes from, you may prefer the responsive version to the non-responsive alternatively, only if you’ve got all of your bases covered properly with both parties.


On the other hand, you may like non-responsive web design because:


  • Your strategy is mobile-first. These days, most websites should likely plan to attract mobile traffic before desktop traffic, with a few exceptions. With a mobile first strategy, you will find it far easier to make and deploy a mobile site first, and then a desktop version second, other than that, you can now focus your primary development time and effort on making a site that hits all of the high marks with mobile-friendly screen dimensions. That refers to things like aligning where widgets and social media buttons are, where you place your call to action for the best possible effect on a hand held screen, media content links, and more.
  • You want tighter control. With a responsive site, the only way you can really change and test the functionality properly is to resize your browser, or visit on a mobile device yourself, but not every mobile screen offers the same amount of visual real estate, and browser resizing definitely doesn’t cut it compared to real world feedback from mobile users in the wild. A mobile version of a site, in general, will give you a much better sense of control for what you’re presenting, and how it’s presented. You can actually create different presentations within a mobile site to fit different device screens– for tablet and for phones, for example– which can make it much easier to reach wider demographics. Some news sites have as many as forty or more “versions” of their front page and articles based on incoming traffic, but these are not responsive designs. They are actual, hardcoded dimensions for images, tables, text, and more.
  • You already have a site, and you want to save money. This one can become bigger than you think. It’s not always the best course of action to start over and throw a lot of time and money into something that won’t net you the type of results you think it will. It should be carefully measured as to whether or not rebuilding a site will be worth your marketing dollar. A mobile version of a site is something that you can actually make with your existing content, and do so rather easily, all without the time it would take to go responsive. For older sites, like those for small business or online retail, that could be a life saver, and a budget-sparing solution that makes everyone happy.


Ultimately, it’s your decision as to whether or not responsive is the way to go. If your company sees a lot of mobile traffic over its desktop numbers, however, it’s recommended that you go with the route of creating a mobile-dedicated site.


The only real mistake you can done is not doing either and ignoring your mobile visitors. It cannot be overstated just how much of your conversion rate could be missing in the wild due to a lack of engagement with mobile customers. Don’t think that you’re better off going without.

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