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Responsive Web design not a long-term solution to mobility: Forrester


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.

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“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.

Longer-term benefits
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.”

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York

News Editor Chantal Tode covers advertising, messaging, legal/privacy and database/CRM. Reach her at chantal@mobilemarketer.com.

Related content: Research, responsive Web design, Forrester, Moovweb, HTML5, Mitch Bishop, mobile marketing, mobile

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Comments on "Responsive Web design not a long-term solution to mobility: Forrester "

  1. John Murdoch says:

    February 22, 2014 at 6:19pm

    This report is the biggest load of rubbish I have seen. Tried to read your report on this website via my smartphone and sorry to say this website is not even mobile optimized let alone a fully functional mobile site and yes the 2 are different.
    Having worked in the mobile space for a long time I find that business owners are taking their advice from wed designers or their own internal staff who don't have a clue about mobile either.

  2. Ole Bo Larsen says:

    February 21, 2014 at 7:43am

    I am not a 100% expert on responsive sites, delivery but may I throw mobile websites into the discussion? Although to some 'another piece to manage' its focused on the user experience. Any takes?
  3. WILSON KERR says:

    February 5, 2014 at 12:20pm

    The issue here seems to be that the article did not clearly delineate between content sites and commerce sites. The needs of clients on each side of this coin are VERY different and the unexpected complexities involved in delivering a commerce-enabled site RWD (for a retailer) are what (I think) they were trying to convey. For a content site (IE the Boston Globe), RWD is likely a solid solution, since the goal is to have similar content displayed across a spectrum of form factors. Unfortunately the promise (hype?) of responsive has been applied broadly and, for online retailers, it can come with a host of problems that have, in fact, required unanticipated back-end work for many. Again, this has less to do with RWD generally and more to do with the specific needs and goals of the client trying to use it.
  4. Thomas Pence says:

    February 4, 2014 at 2:55pm

    This article makes Mobile Marketer appear as if they do not understand the mobile space at all. Truly damaging to your brand. My advice is to take this down as it is full of statements and assertions that are unequivocally incorrect. Pretty much everything you say here is incorrect. Further, you make Forrester (an industry expert) look bad in connection with this terrible article. Next time just have have your vendor partner buy a banner ad.
  5. Seriously Guys? says:

    February 4, 2014 at 2:50pm

    Glad to see The Onion is branching out.

    Surely a company who scrapes sites as a business model wouldn't denounces RWD, and proclaims scraping as "Responsive Delivery"

  6. David Gerbino says:

    February 4, 2014 at 12:48pm

    I read the Forrester and Moovweb report. To read it you have to provide your contact info. Here is the link: http://www.moovweb.com/wp/forrester/

    The report speaks for itself.

    Those who know better will create outstanding mobile first experiences using the techniques Ethan named for us in 2010.
  7. Patrick Collins says:

    February 4, 2014 at 12:17pm

  8. Website Developer says:

    February 4, 2014 at 11:28am

    Guys, this is just a commercial for Moovweb who is trying to coin a term "Responsive Delivery". Shameless.
  9. Ren Renolds says:

    February 4, 2014 at 10:39am

    Hahaha.. you obviously have absolutely NO idea what the hell you are talking about! I'll have some of what you've been smoking :)
  10. Dan Soppelsa says:

    February 4, 2014 at 10:29am

    Was this article written by some bot? No way a human being created this tripe.
  11. Dan Malarkey says:

    February 4, 2014 at 9:37am

  12. Erwin Heiser says:

    February 4, 2014 at 9:15am

    Author of this article is so obviously clueless it's not even funny anymore. Seriously, WTF?
  13. CJ Coats says:

    February 4, 2014 at 8:28am

    This is utter nonsense. You have no idea what you are talking about.
  14. John Locke says:

    February 4, 2014 at 8:15am

    This article is an example of what happens when non-developers write about development. Check your facts - RWD does not require companies to "rewrite their code base". The whole point of RWD is to have one code base.
    So many inaccuracies in this article, it boggles the mind.
  15. Joe Smith says:

    February 4, 2014 at 7:52am

    I thought the same thing! This was the most ridiculous article ever. Using the word Responsive out of context, mixing up terms and phrases... sheesh. Awful. Just awful. I was waiting for the joke/punch line at the end. Seriously.
  16. A Developer says:

    February 4, 2014 at 7:17am

    Was this article randomly generated by a script? It certainly reads like it.

    The author (if human) clearly does not understand what half of these words mean. The gist of the article appears to be "responsive web design doesn't work and is only a short term solution, and the long term solution is responsive web design". Utter gibberish.

    As an aside and forgetting the utter inanity of this article for a moment, the assertion that RWD is fundamentally unsuitable for meeting the needs of mobile users is a pretty absurd starting point anyway.
  17. Benjamin LUPU says:

    February 4, 2014 at 5:33am

    Hi, that article is weird. It is true that RWD is a cost and a constraint (notably regarding testing and maintenance). But I don't see why you specifically tie it to backend changes. Backend evolution is a key point for any mobile project. RWD is a FE thing. It doesn't imply any backend change. A second point, why are you opposing HTML5 and RWD ? Technically RWD is based on HTML5 no ? Are you talking about having a separate mobile website done with HTML5 ? So it is difficult to judge this article as it has a lot holes in it :-\
  18. W.L. Webb says:

    February 3, 2014 at 5:47am

    Have you lost your mind?

    Responsive web design is all about the front-end. RWD itself DOES NOT require "back-end" changes unless the previous front-end and back-end code are poorly written and intertwined - and if so that is NOT the fault of RWD.

    Who paid you to post this collage of gibberish, doubletalk, half-truths and outright lies?
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