My company is currently looking at revamping a complex back-end financial operations application that is delivered through a browser. The user base is restricted to employees who are business experts. Expectations are that it is not mobile compatible but possibly used on a tablet, sparingly. The vast majority of users will be desktop.

A couple of page proto-type ended up getting built from 1200px mockups.
The development team ended up using new technology that used responsive layout.

During QA / Review, I noticed that when the screen was resized, the labels started wrapping, fields started moving around, etc. and the end result (at lower screen width) just didn't look good.

I asked the developers about it and basically they said that static design was old-fashioned. It just seemed like they didn't think this was a problem. I subsequently requested that if the px goes below what we are designing to, which was 1200px, that a horizontal scroll bar should appear. They did it reluctantly.

We have yet to move on from the proto-type but this experience has led me to believe that responsive design requires actual more work than just using a new technology. It may actually require some thought on what happens when the horizontal width shrinks.

Frankly, at this point, I am not sure what advantage we are getting with responsive design.

My specific question is, does developing responsive layouts require more work than static? And if so, how much effort does it usually take?

  • 2
    "It may actually require some thought" = yes. Of course! And also note that you can't just decide people won't be using it on mobile. They will be. Regardless of what we think. The entire world is heading in that direction where the vast majority of our online interaction will be happening on mobile devices. Best to prepare for it. – DA01 May 18 '17 at 19:36
  • Responsive design tradeoffs and considerations is not just UX; but overall SE with business & user knowledge required imho. Even just focusing on UX aspects - adjusting to display conventions, collapsible menus, whether smaller screens should allow editing & advanced view or be simplified from desktop view, etc. are all factors that might influence the app's architecture. – Alok Sep 16 '17 at 1:39

Welcome to the world of responsive design

Responsive design isn't necessarily just cramming everything into a smaller screen to make sure, in parallel, it is what it was in desktop. That's the wrong assumption.

Responsive design is considering the user's mindset on the device used to use the application. When the person is on desktop, they will be doing x, y and z, while on tablet they would be doing a, b and c.

So in short it does require more work than a static site.

  • OK, so it sounds like it requires more work than static. If I can ask a followup question, then is there any reason to use responsive design in our case where the app is used almost 100% of the time on a desktop, is highly complex, and has a restricted audience? It seems the overhead of responsive design provides little benefit. – shobaldur Apr 18 '17 at 19:23
  • If you know your users will not be using the application outside of desktop, then there is no need! The only reason why responsive is such a big idea these days is because they know their users will be using the application on all platforms. So no need to do responsive. – Majo0od Apr 19 '17 at 12:52
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    @shobaldur as Majo0od says there is probably no need. But consider if the application is always going to be used with the width it was designed for (1200px in your case) or there might be cases where users will also want to use it with a lower app screen size (resized). If those cases exist and are important you might want to consider using responsive design. – Alvaro May 18 '17 at 19:42

does developing responsive layouts require more work than static?

Yes. When you are developing a responsive web app, you need account for more variables. A static page will only be displayed on a computer, and most computers have relatively similar aspect ratios. Mobile devices have widely varying aspect ratios and can even be rotated which changes how the content is displayed. All of these different displays must be tested to ensure that they do not have issues and testing takes time / effort / money.

how much effort does it usually take?

This question cannot be answered. I would say that it depends primarily on two factors: the number of elements in the web app and the devices you intend to support. With more elements, more CSS media queries will need to be made.

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