Mobile Apps: The Trouble With Using ‘Responsive Design’

| November 20, 2012 | Reply

Guest post written by Carin van Vuuren on

Carin van Vuuren is chief marketing officer at Usablenet.

If you’ve recently chatted with your Web development team, you may have heard about responsive design. A growing trend for today’s businesses, publishers and developers, responsive design is an approach to Web development that many brands are considering to optimize their online content for multiple devices with varying screen sizes across the traditional Web, tablets, smartphones and beyond.

Like any philosophy, responsive design is a choice, and a tempting one at that. Many pro-responsive developers affectionately term RD “one-Web,” which emphasizes the single set of code a responsive site is based on. This design principle utilizes coding language that responds to the device being used – whether an Android smartphone or an iPad – in order to display content relative to the size and orientation of its screen.

Amid an overwhelming amount of mobile options and solutions, it’s easy to see why responsive design’s singular code seems like an alluring universal panacea for mobile optimization. However, while responsive design aims to scale web content fluidly across multiple devices with different screen sizes, it may not represent the best option for organizations aiming to deliver unique and innovative experiences to customers.

A good example of this dilemma can be found in LinkedIn’s recent approach to developing its iPad app. According to Kirin Prasad, LinkedIn’s head of mobile development, responsive design doesn’t work for complicated sites like the LinkedIn iPad app, 95% of which was developed with HTML5 to target a specific set of user tasks. This approach allows LinkedIn to create different experiences on different devices based on use case and context. For the majority of sites that require an interactive experience like LinkedIn’s, responsive design limits the different designs necessary to deliver functionality for each use case.

So when is responsive design an appropriate solution?


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    Chris Swemba of Perrysburg, Ohio is the the founder of, and Learn more about him here: or

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