If you think that "responsive design" only means a handful of media queries in your CSS - and that you can avoid a fundamental assessment of the needs of a visitor to your website when they visit on their phone or tablet - then think again. A good mobile site, from a technical perspective, loads quickly because it has small file sizes, does not require ‘pinch and zoom’, works across all devices, is accessed from the main WWW domain and of course is integrated with the desktop CMS so that it contains good content which is easy to update.
As explained very eloquently in the original blog post by
Luke Wroblewski (Responsive Design + Server Side Components
- RESS for short) good mobile-based responsive design means presenting assets on-screen based upon the capabilities/ specifications of the browser (informed
by the use of Media Queries) combined with the availability of appropriate server side assets. In this collaborative manner, we are able to deliver mobile websites that are properly optimised mobile (lower page file sizes that allow viewer-acceptable download times).
Mobile sites need to be <100kb per page, otherwise the
load times go up and site visitors lose patience. Load time was one of the
critical technical measures we looked at for websites for the FTSE research. And something that we pay critical attention to, when designing or optimising websites
for mobile devices for clients - for example the sites we have built for Gatwick Airport (m.gatwickairport.com) and Remington (uk.remington-europe.com). There is plenty of market research out there suggesting that a page load of
anything more than 30 seconds sees site visitors fleeing in an exponential
If your desktop site is 500kb to 1MB or greater (and that’s
not an unreasonable size, with images etc, for a desktop site served over
broadband these days), responsive design alone will also send that size of file
over the mobile network. Even on 3G, that can take minutes to load.
And a quick aside about networks – even 4G won’t be the immediate salvation here. Mobile network data delivery speed is governed by cell mast
density, environmental factors (lots of metal-rich tall buildings in the way),
and the number of people passing through and/ or using your specific network
cell at that moment amongst other things. It is quite possible (probable, even) to get faster
load times on 2.5G than 4G at certain times and locations.
“Good” mobile websites (Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Vodafone,
Samsung… Gatwick airport) do not rely on media queries alone. They use them in
combination with a device detection API, adaptive templates and server side
informed assets. Something that we apply to our designs.