The Truth about Responsive Website Design?

This blog post is in response to an E-Mail sent by a vendor in our industry titled “The Truth about Responsive Website Design”  that many Innkeepers received and quite a few forwarded to me to read.

Technically, the contents of the article above may be considered mostly accurate.  However, there is additional important information Innkeepers need to know about RWD (Responsive Web Design) before making any decisions on their Mobile presence.

In the article above, the writer fails to mention RESS (Responsive Design with Server Side components) which is a server-side method to address the issue of loading large amounts of data to a mobile device.

Google states: Responsive is their Recommended Configuration for Mobile

See # 1 on Image Above: Sites that use responsive web design, i.e. sites that serve all devices on the same set of URLs, with each URL serving the same HTML to all devices and using just CSS to change how the page is rendered on the device. This is Google’s recommended configuration.

As of May 1, 2013, all of Acorn’s new designs, both Turnkey and Custom are RWD and are using RESS. We load specifically designed smaller images for the mobile displays and this is detected at the server level. We also make some minor adjustments such as not showing the logo in the footer on a mobile device. We already display that information in the header therefore there is no need to display it again on a mobile device.  We also display the major call to action items as tap buttons in the header for mobile devices. All these items are detected at the server level. RESS is currently our recommended choice for any RWD. When done correctly, by a qualified programmer, it will load fast and score in the acceptable range using Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool, and is flexible so that the visual display provides a quality user experience on all device sizes. There is only one CSS file and code base for our RWD sites, therefore it is much easier to build and maintain than an adaptive design described in the article above.

See # 2 on Image Above:  Sites that dynamically serve all devices on the same set of URLs, but each URL serves different HTML (and CSS) depending on whether the user agent is a desktop or a mobile device.

Adaptive design is when the website code loads a specific CSS file based on the display size of the device loading the site. The big disadvantage of this approach is you have multiple CSS files to maintain for the various device sizes being supported. When building and modifying an adaptive design there are multiple copies of the design to maintain and test. Adaptive designs are optimized for predefined screen sizes. When a user loads the website with a device that has a screen size that is not a perfect match to the adaptive code, then the user will have wasted space on their display, which in turn does not provide a good user experience for those users.

Since there are so many new and various screen sizes on the market today there are going to be a lot of visitors that will not have the best visually optimized experience on their device. This goes against Google’s recommended user experience guidelines for mobile display.

See # 3 on Image Above: Sites that have separate mobile and desktop URLs.

A separate mobile site is still a quality and Google supported option. If an Innkeeper needs a mobile site but cannot afford a new RWD at the moment, then a separate mobile site is an alternative option until they are ready for a responsive design. We do not recommend this approach when building a new design from scratch.


We at Acorn IS have made the conscious decision, based on Google’s recommended configuration for Mobile, that an adaptive design is not the best option for Innkeepers and will end up being more expensive in the long run than a RWD. We know this to be true based on the number of separate CSS files that needs to be built and maintained to support an adaptive design.

Here are Some Dates to Consider

Website and Mobile Speed and User Experience

It is very important that all Innkeepers are aware of the fact that Google is currently dedicating many resources to their PageSpeed Insights Tool. This tool has seen major algorithm changes in the past 8-10 weeks, and more recently just added 5 new Beta elements as part of their user experience testing on a mobile device.

Page Speed Insights Tool

Page Speed: What is Acceptable?Currently, the majority of Acorn’s RWD sites are scoring in the GREEN (acceptable) range, as seen demonstrated in the example above, and it is our mission to have all of our RWD sites scoring in an acceptable range by January 2014.

I have personally spoken with two other veteran, quality vendors in our industry who also believe that a RWD is the right way for Innkeepers to go for any future design, and they too are working on improving their site speed and user experience scores.

I encourage you to test your Desktop and Mobile site using Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool and see what Google thinks about your Mobile experience, whether it be responsive, adaptive or a separate mobile site.  This tool will tell you!

The Question You Must Ask Yourself is…

Why is Google putting so much effort into evaluating the speed and user experience of your mobile site? There are indicators that both speed and user experience will have an impact on your search engine placement in the future, especially in regards to Mobile search results.

June 11, 2013 Google: Site Speed Penalty Coming To Mobile Web Sites
“This morning, Google announced demotion factors for mobile sites, but they did not announce site speed as one of those demotion factors. That is because that feature is not yet live but it is coming soon, and Matt wants webmasters and SEOs to prepare.”

June 11, 2013 Google: In Future, Pages With Bad Mobile SEO Won’t Rank As Well In Mobile Search
“Is your site not doing a good job for mobile visitors? Better get that fixed. Sites with mobile experience issues won’t rank as highly in Google’s mobile or smartphone search results, in the future.”

Can you Afford to Ignore what Google has said about their Recommended Configuration?

Believe it or not, RWD done right is NOT going to break your budget. Our Turnkey Responsive Designs start at 3K. It’s a small price to pay to stay on path that Google has set forth. We all know, from over a decade of vast experience, if you follow Google’s guidelines, it always pays off.

Finally, RESS, which supports RWD and at the same time optimizes the visual content at the server side is our preferred and proven method because the web site design provides a quality user experience on all device sizes and also meets Google’s PageSpeed Insights requirements for a fast load time.

So How Do You Decide?

  • Investigate.
  • Understand the facts.
  • Evaluate your options.
  • Know what Google wants.
  • And then you decide if RWD, or Adaptive or a Separate Mobile site is the best for your needs and budget.

2 thoughts on “The Truth about Responsive Website Design?

  1. I am very interested in seeing what it would take to have a responsive website. However, one of my problems is that I use Webervations on my site and they have no plan to make it available on mobile. Would I need to move from Webervations? If so, who would you recommend?
    thanks

    • Hi Kris, I checked with Lisa about your question. She said that since vWebervations has the small calendars, it’s an OK work around, and you don’t need to change.

      Thanks
      Annie

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