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Basically the question is in the title. Many of my co-workers think that you can design for desktop and then if the client decides to make it responsive later on then so be it. I think this is a terrible idea and leads to developers making design decisions and the cost of the site skyrocketing for the client because it takes longer than if the decision to go responsive was reflected in the designs.

I wanted to get some input from others before broaching the subject at work. Should the ability to be responsive be decided at the beginning of a project and reflected in the designs?

(Figured this was UX related because these are the first people on the team that need to make decisions based on responsive or not, and in the end it effects the usability.)

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You are correct, it's a terrible idea to not design with responsive in mind if that is the end goal. –  DA01 Oct 4 '13 at 17:38
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2 Answers

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It's definitely a bad idea not to design for responsive right from the beginning.

The mobile and desktop version of a site are basically two completely different designs that may have different user personas/scenarios along with it. It's the designers responsibility to decide the best design approach for both devices.

Answers are never as simple as "just make it smaller". The designer will need to re-layout certain sections, remove superfluous navigation paths, condense text, lower resolution quality, and so on to make it better suited for mobile devices. The huge varieties in screen sizes, internet speeds, and touch based interactivity are three of many major differences that a designer must consider when designing a site.

Relying on developers (who may have no design/UX backgrounds) to re-create the site for a mobile version can spell disaster. Their jobs are to make things work, not to make it understandable.

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This is a good answer, and I would recommend that your colleagues have a look at Mobile First abookapart.com/products/mobile-first, already a couple of years out of date! –  Simon Oct 4 '13 at 18:36
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Mobile should always be a consideration, especially considering the estimates for what date tablets will outpace computers at the register just keeps getting sooner and sooner. There are considerations to make for the mobile environment: users are more transaction-oriented, they may have connectivity issues, they have short attention spans, etc. When a client's time or budget is short, I used rapid prototyping tools in the wireframe stage so that we're all on the same page about basic usability like layout. Tools like ZURB foundation are perfect for this because they're responsive right out of the box, so I don't have to spend extra effort guessing how it should look at different breakpoints. Using it, I can basically skip the paper wireframe, then design for either mobile or desktop and tinker with the CSS to get it to look right in the other formats. That gives us more time to examine what elements should be changed for a mobile environment where not all the content is welcome.

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