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Has anyone ever heard of someone making only some pages on their web site responsive? What do you think about this idea, is it good or bad? I'm not really sure how I feel about the idea. Please comment with links to some examples or with your feeling on the idea.

Update: This is for a large existing website with many custom apps that we can not afford to update at this time. Someone on our team came up with the idea to only redesign the pages that are heavily visited like the home page and content pages and leave the rest as is.

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To what end? What would be the reasoning behind making some pages less accessible than others? –  Matt Sep 20 '12 at 18:49
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"Please download our app!" pages could be responsive while others are not. –  Tim Sep 20 '12 at 19:28
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You should update your question with: 1) details about your project -- redesign, new site, etc... 2) details about why this came up. Does someone on your team think it's a good idea? –  Loren Rogers Sep 20 '12 at 21:25

5 Answers 5

As with every design answer, it depends. There may be situations where adding responsiveness may be detrimental to the experience, but for the most part I'd say that responsive design is generally a good thing.

Getting responsive design right is incredibly tricky. Here's a great article on the subject: http://stephanierieger.com/a-plea-for-progressive-enhancement/ And here's a great slide show all about what mobile really means: http://www.slideshare.net/bryanrieger/rethinking-the-mobile-web-by-yiibu/

So depending on your situation, here's what I'd suggest.

If you're building an application from scratch. Go with mobile first. I'm a big fan of mobile first, even if you're not explicitly making a mobile site. You'll find it incredibly helpful to disengage yourself from the stereotypical large desktop. You'll end up making a more useful design.

If you're redesigning an existing site / application. Look at your users. Look at your analytics. If they really don't use mobile that much, and it would take a lot of effort to re-implement the design using a responsive layout, then skip it. But chances are that since you're asking this question, they're using mobile. In that case, if you have the budget, I would really suggest going responsive. Paying attention to odd sized devices will only help you down the line. (I can't imagine anyone saying to themselves "I really wish I hadn't considered mobile...")

But, if there's something that would be totally ruined by making it responsive, obviously skip it. For example, if there's a game that really requires a fixed layout, or if you have to show charts / graphs at a certain resolution. In these cases, you obviously shouldn't be doing much with them. (Of course, it's case specific and you may have an awesome creative idea that solves the problem. In which case, go for it.)

I'm curious to see what others think about this and I'd love to hear any previous experiences people have had since we've added responsive design to the toolbox. (Comments?)

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I think you must go with the partial responsive design but only in these conditions:

  • Make sure your client will be inform of this.
  • The home page will be the first page go responsive. If user go to your home page and can't use your site correctly, they leave.
  • You'll make the entire site responsive in the near future.

I'm not agree with the idea to look at analysis to make this decision, because personally, when I use a mobile device to visit a site, I'll abandon the site directly if I feel discomfort in my phone or tablet screen and never come back again with a mobile device (further use will be desktop only). But if this site have a responsive design or mobile version, i stick with my mobile device and abandon the desktop version. The fact that your site do not have much mobile visit do not mean peoples do not want to visit your site with a mobile device.

I found an article which demonstrate that bounce rate with mobile browser is more important than desktop browser with full e-commerce site. I guess this point out somehow that mobile user leave the site directly if it do not adapt to the screen like I mentionned but I'm not sure.

Otherwise, i agree with Loren's idea of mobile first if you build your site from scratch.

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I'd be careful about treating responsive design as a silver bullet. Many 'lay' people understand 'responsive design' to be a great concept, but technical delivery of this is often done without the user in mind - delivering all the files and assets any user could want and relying on their device to firstly download them all quickly (a poor assumption) and then display them correctly.

Added to this responsive design rarely deals with the responsive content element - do mobile users actually want to see all that content on every page? Or do you really want to tailor design and content to devices. Mobile users are often using their mobile devices to scan, and discover information, not to do deeper research which typically they will do on a desktop device.

So, for me, responsive design as concept to a lay person is great - ie, pages are delivered to a device in the best way for that device, but we must remember that the rare feature phone user who actually browses the web does not want to have to download all the assets that you may want your tablet users to display. They ONLY want the content and assets that their device will be displaying - determine that server-side, not client-side.

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Fair points, but I could counter this by asking "do Desktop users actually want to see all that content on every page?*" It's really down to ensuring you have good architecture and content within the site as a whole as to what is displayed to the user. What the web developers / project sponsors / marketing teams etc want to display on pages isn't always what the end user actually wants, regardless of whether it's on a mobile / tablet / desktop... –  JonW Sep 21 '12 at 9:49

I agree with the sentiment that "it depends" and "doing mobile is hard". It's worth spending a lot of time on mobile and responsive designs. BUT, you should absolutely do whatever you can as soon as you can. Doing it the right way can take a while, but you should drive your organization to start sanding off any pain points for mobile users as soon as possible. Responsive design can be as easy as specific rules inside of media query blocks in your style sheet. Just start messing around with them, pick a single point of pain and begin making it better, it's really not that hard technically to implement a little bit at a time. Organizationally, that can be challenging, but your users deserve to have their experiences fixed as soon as possible.

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I haven't seen too many partially responsive sites...

I'll jump on the "it depends" bandwagon.

What is the goal? Are you trying to adapt to multiple screen sizes? or specifically mobile?


When to add responsiveness...

If there are a large number of mobile visitors to a certain area of a site, it might be worth making it more responsive or appear more correctly on smaller screens. Some pages might have a viewing experience that is just fine without any additional styling.


Sometimes, a dedicated mobile interface is better

Often, if you have a large number of mobile visitors, a dedicated, simplified version of a website is a better choice. You can provide a solid experience for the user for specific areas and you get to choose where to invest the time.

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