Stop Resizing Your Browser Window Already
Working in mobile over the past decade made you weird, and honestly kind of obsessive.
I get it, we had to be evangelists for a tiny, once thought insignificant medium. We've worked hard to get the attention we needed from the integrated media planners, to get the budget to add mobile executions to our campaigns, to earn the heart of the digital team so it includes mobile-friendly landing pages, to convince marketers to pay attention. We've collectively counted the decimals of smartphone penetration. We extolled its virtues as the real first screen.
All of this effort and energy put in to fighting for our medium has had the unintended effect of making us nearly religious in regard to mobile. The latest casualty of this obsessiveness is responsive web design (RWD).
Don't get me wrong, I believe RWD is the one true path to omnichannel-owned media greatness. It improves conversion over m.dot sites and unifies the brand site under one URL. It's Google's preferred method, best for search engine optimization, and the best experience (when done right) for the mobile and tablet user. We've seen conversion rates beat m.dot sites head-to-head.
But with all the exciting results of RWD, the mobile industry lost track of what it's really making: a customer experience.
While we at Merkle | 5th Finger enjoy resizing new websites to see if they're responsive, the fluid resizing effect adds nearly zero value to the user who has come to the site to shop. And you can't even resize your browser in a tablet or phone.
In fact, many of our responsive sites don't change breakpoints unless the user is on a touch device. That's because not all users with a 600-pixel wide browser window need massive thumb-sized buttons or a condensed menu. In fact, your customer (or client) may still have their desktop monitor set to 800 pixels.
Contrary to popular belief, there are still some desktop computers and laptops being sold, many of which have touchscreen functionality. These devices will likely have a nice wide screen that would call for the widest "desktop" breakpoint. In this case, most standard RWD sites as they're being designed now would not have touch-friendly buttons. When appropriate, we add a layer of media queries for touch to trigger breakpoints, because, honestly, it's more relevant to the consumer experience — and that's really why we're all here in the first place.
So mobile industry friends, please keep perspective when judging whether websites being developed are truly responsive. Let's not lose sight of the fact that RWD is a skill set that allows us to design great user experiences regardless of the device, not an end in itself.
Evan Nicholson is a senior account manager at Merkle | 5th Finger. Under the Merkle umbrella of companies, 5th Finger works with top retailers and financial services organizations on optimizing their sites for responsive web design. Top clients include 1-800-CONTACTS, NARS Cosmetics, Seventh Generation, and Protective Life. Evan can be reached at email@example.com.
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