November 18, 2013, 4:21 PM

Responsive web design is here to stay

Mobile adoption drives interest in responsive, but it’s no silver bullet.

When I first looked at responsive web design (RWD) back in June 2012, only early adopters (mostly startups, agencies, and media firms) had taken the plunge. Back then, developers and web designers alike were still getting to grips with the concepts required to build responsive sites. eBusiness leaders, although intrigued by the premise of a single site able to adapt across devices, were mostly playing a pragmatic wait-and-see game. Fast forward almost 18 months and much has changed. Although hype and confusion continue (not least due to a perplexing set of technology terms and marketing buzzwords), RWD has firmly cemented itself as a natural evolution of web, and it’s here to stay.

For my latest research on RWD, my colleague Mark Grannan and I spoke to over 20 digital agencies and end user clients that have adopted responsive design. We found that RWD sites are still far from ubiquitous; however, adoption is growing steadily. As web traffic on mobile phones and tablets is increasing to the point where firms must optimize for these touchpoints, RWD is taking center stage in many enterprise discussions.

Unfortunately, many organizations may make RWD decisions based on advice from agency partners and/or mobile application development vendors (or some combination of both) that have a vested interest in the technology choice. This results in fragmentation among development teams, false starts, missed expectations for responsive sites, and, ultimately, disappointed and angry mobile customers. eBusiness professionals should avoid drinking the RWD “Kool-Aid” or going responsive because “everyone else is doing it.” RWD was never framed as a silver bullet for mobile needs, and it shouldn’t treat it as such.

For those exploring RWD, it might be interesting to know which eBusiness peers have already taken the plunge. To this end, I thought I would share some of the RWD eCommerce sites that I’ve encountered. This list is by no means exhaustive (and doesn’t reflect the backlog of RWD sites currently in development), but it should give a benchmark of what other online retailers have already accomplished.  

Activeskin

Ancestory.com

Aritzia

Bjorn Borg

BlueNile

Burton

Currys

eBags

Indochino

Mulberry

Nixon

Nokia

Oddbins

Rue 21

Telus

Tommy Hilfiger

UGG

Volkswagen

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