I'm reasonably new to responsive design as we are considering how to pitch it to our web development clients (mostly not-for-profits and gov orgs who will need to see a solid ROI on extra design money spent if they can afford it at all).
A key thing I haven’t seen discussed much yet is I guess what I’d maybe call inter-device website usability. I presume there is an increasing tendency for individual users to access the same websites from multiple different devices at different times. E.g. I have 24 inch PC monitor, Ipad and big screen smart phone. If you are a user repeatedly visiting a site across multiple device types, different layouts auto displayed on different devices can arguably be as irksome as different layouts used within the same website. Returning users make a memory map of site layout and info structure. Simple layout changes require you to look harder for where to find stuff and more time usually, which results in user frustration, right?
Maybe I'm unusual but I personally like sites that stay roughly the same across those devices, because I know where I need to go (nav, content, modules, widgets or whatever), no matter the device. I can zoom in if I want to or not. My choice! Nothing beyond the core site design is making decisions for me about how I want to see the content – and no one else’s device specific information prioritisation decisions are making decisions about what matters to me and getting in my way. For example, see http://www.smashingmagazine.com on both your PC and phone. I’d rather see the standard website on my phone not this stripped back version where the websites IA does not correspond to what I see in the mobile’s select dropdown and I cannot get to its 3rd level nav items AFAICS. In UI methodology terms I believe my desire would be for a “continuous user interface”.
The case I’m making is that in a multi-device inter-operable world where the UX journey occurs across multiple devices, familiarity (in layout and structure) can increase usability as much as other (responsive) approaches can. I completely acknowledge that I'm diving in the deep end here and am actually trying to think things through relative to the content rich, money poor, low tech clients we have. And I'm pretty new here so please go easy on me.
Is there a body of research on designing websites with consistent UX / inter-device usability in mind or discussions of this nature with responsive design in mind? Or anywhere I can go for some education on all this?