Responsive Web design not a long-term solution to mobility: Forrester
By Chantal Tode
February 3, 2014
Multi-screen use reflects different behaviors and needs
With responsive Web design projects proving more complex than expected while still lacking the ability to leverage key mobile functionality, the answer to how to efficiently deliver experiences across multiple devices is still forthcoming, according to a report released today by Forrester and Moovweb.
The survey forming the basis of the report found that 63 percent of companies using responsive Web design today believe it is not suitable for long-term use. With many companies looking for ways to address the significant growth in mobile traffic to their Web assets, the report suggests that responsive delivery and HTML5 may be better long-term solutions.
“One of the biggest things that came out of this was that responsive Web design was viewed by the majority of the respondents as a tactical short-term solution,” said Mitch Bishop, chief marketing officer of Moovweb, San Francisco. “They do not view responsive Web design as a long-term strategic answer to mobility.
“Most of the respondents that finished the project said that they spent at least 70 percent of their time and effort on these projects on the backend,” he said. “In other words, writing APIs, writing custom integrations to the back-end.
“The projects largely came in but what was revealed by the survey was that most companies had to reduce scope of the project in order to make that happen.”
Simpler solutions needed
The report is based on a survey of 146 United States-based companies across a range of industry sectors evaluating the results of various leading mobile development and deployment strategies.
A key finding was that a responsive Web design approach and use of HTML5 were tied as the most frequently-used techniques, with 43 percent using responsive Web design and 45 percent HTML5.
Responsive delivery was put forth as a possible better long-term solution.
Responsive Web design requires companies to have one set of code that can be pushed out to any device. Responsive delivery uses a smart server as a go-between to pick and choose the appropriate elements to deliver to each device.
The report uncovered some issues with responsive Web design.
One of the main issues with responsive Web design is that it requires the code for a company’s existing Web assets to be completely rewritten, making the project more complex than some expected.
Key findings from the report include that more than 70 percent of the cost, time and effort in responsive Web design projects is spent on the back-end recoding APIs, middleware, integration and infrastructure.
The survey also found 37 percent of respondents had to cut the scope of their responsive Web design projects to be able to deliver them on budget.
Responsive Web design also does not meet many companies’ needs on the front-end.
“The retailers that I talk to understand that responsive Web design as a technique is naturally a least common denominator approach,” Mr. Bishop said.
“It is actually difficult to take advantage of mobile-specific features like geolocation or the camera,” he said.
The main issues for HTML5 revealed by the survey include that the newness, complexity and rate of change in HTML5 make it difficult for managers to accurately estimate project tasks.
Going forward, the report recommends responsive delivery as a way to unify experiences across touch points. It also underscores the ongoing importance of HTML5 for building mobile experiences.
A responsive approach makes sense for companies that need support for many devices, have content heavy- experiences, need simple customer interactions and have frequently changing information.
By leveraging existing Web assets for both mobile sites and apps and eliminating the need for Web site rewrites, responsive delivery can help improve performance and allow organizations to take advantage of mobile-specific features, thereby providing more strategic, longer-term benefits.
“Responsive Web design has a lot of mindshare with marketers right now,” Mr. Bishop said. “I think that once they get through this first wave of projects, they are going to realize that they need something else.
“What retailers are really after is digital agility,” he said. “They are after a way, first of all, to unify their desktop, Web and app strategies under one umbrella.
“But the point of doing that is to make learning much faster so they can be much more nimble as an organization.”
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York
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