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I have a large website that needs to be updated to be responsive.

There are business deadlines that prefer a gradual roll out instead of waiting to be completely finished

Should I apply a responsive layout to individual pages as we go or wait until the ENTIRE website is complete? I realize waiting will probably give a better experience but there is pressure from the business side of things

  • I re-worded your question to make it UX-centric. I don't think using bootstrap is really germane to the question. Let me know if I missed the mark on the edit. FWIW, I have this exact same question as we're about to do the same (gradual roll-out of a responsive site) which definitely seems less than idea. Would love any data anyone has on the pros and cons of an incremental roll out. – DA01 Apr 13 '15 at 21:39
  • I like the edits! Thank you. Eager to see the results too! – LiquidJay Apr 13 '15 at 22:27
  • I would like to think your site is based on templates and that you haven't just coded each page one by one. Because if so surely that means you work on the template(s) which would mean you don't have to do page by page? Of course the best thing to do is start from scratch again - content designed to be consumed on a desktop is unlikely to be suited to a mobile, regardless of how responsive the css is. – JonW Apr 14 '15 at 12:27
  • Part of me thinks that gradual release is a good idea because of business pressure, however, more recently I've grown agitated from business interfering with what good design (both UX and visual) is. – Majo0od Apr 14 '15 at 14:05
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Our company is currently dealing with a redesign. We have a complex web app with very specialized functionalities within different modules. It will take a long time to implement the redesign. And when we started evaluating the pros and cons. We quickly realize, incremental updates is the way to go for these reasons.

  • Our users are dealing with an entirely non-optimized system right now. Every single updated page/module that gets to the client's hands means they'll get a better experience right away. One page optimized is still one page. For high usage pages, it's definitely worth it even if it behaves differently from the rest of the site.
  • Gradual change is a good thing for a complex site/app, especially if your users depend on the site to do their work. Changes typically means the user needs to relearn how to do things. If you have a brochure type sites, then this doesn't matter. But if your users depends on it for say creating an invoice and sending it out and they do all their invoicing at the end of the month. Then any change, no matter how minor and intuitive, will impact their efficiency at the beginning. Rolling out all these changes at once suddenly becomes far too risky.
  • Getting feedback early means better design for users. We as UXer aren't infallible. We try our best, but something we don't know until users test it. Again, it goes back to the nature of having a complex system. The more complex something is, the hard it is for a user to know whether something actually works well for them in short "task-based" usability tests. It's really expensive to wait and release the new version all at once. Who knows how many fundamental assumptions we've made, consciously or unconsciously done, are false and leads the new design astray? To find out at the end that we've messed up early would mean scrapping a lot of work. It's not worth it.

Closing Caveat: Above answer is based on the assumption that you have a highly complex site/app. If you have a simpler brochure-ware type of site where visitors go to look up info and leaves within a few minutes, then this doesn't apply. For those cases, consistency across the site is probably far more important: leaves a better impression and there's no confusion for visitors that they are navigating within the same site going with a "big bang" launch.

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    Thanks for the feedback. I can see more pros and cons of both approaches (Gradual vs Entirety). In my case, I will be taking a gradual approach (due to business demands BUT keeping in mind the positives of the Entirety approach, like consistency. In other word, I will be making gradual changes that keeps the user in mind (like updating a global responsive header first --- which is gradual and consistent). Please continue to leave any feedback as this topic will surely help other UX designer/developers – LiquidJay Apr 14 '15 at 17:08
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The BBC have handled their move to responsive from separate m.bbc.co.uk sites, quite nicely with different sections being rolled out in an opt-in beta fashion initially, then eventually live to all users.

They have some articles on the progress of this change on their Internet Blog -

Of course their site is a massive resource with huge traffic numbers so a progressive roll out makes sense to prevent culture shock for users and to take on the task of the entire site in one hit would take either a long time or huge amount of people to work on.

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I have seen it done both ways, and in my experience the answer depends on the breadth of the update. If you're doing a complete redesign, then gradual rollout is extremely difficult from a consistency perspective. If you are simply updating the framework (which I realize is never "simple" and will result in some redesign) to work on all screen sizes, gradual rollout would probably work and will help keep your business partners happy.

Either way, you have to be strategic to avoid the changes being too jarring for the user. I've seen it done the worst way possible: a complete redesign done in a phased rollout. This resulted in a brand new pages with brand new navigation systems combined with old pages with different color schemes, imagery, navigation, and patterns. Needless to say, very unsettling to users.

Good luck!

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