Responsive Website Design: No Longer Optional

By Julie

Responsive Website Design: No Longer Optional

Happy New Year! It’s officially 2020, the start of a brand new decade.

During the past 10 years, we experienced a massive shift in technology. 2010 saw the creation of Instagram and the iPad. Meanwhile, video stores like Blockbuster became obsolete in the face of VOD, Netflix, and other streaming services. Do you remember what it was like waiting for something to load on your phone before 4G coverage became widespread? You could be staring at that screen for minutes. It certainly wasn’t your preferred method of getting things done.

Fast-forward to the end of 2019, and we’re doing everything on our phones. People are checking their bus schedules, replying to emails, tweeting about their school assignments, looking up places to eat, doing their Boxing Day shopping, and calling Ubers home at the end of a night out. With a decent data plan, it’s not that hard to go days without sitting down at a physical computer.

And yet, whenever we get an inquiry for a new website, one of the first questions anyone asks us is still this:

“Are your websites responsive?”

The fact that this is still a necessary question in 2020 is upsetting. This means there were web developers in 2019 building static websites for desktops only, and business owners getting burned because of it.

It’s like telling a friend you want to rent a movie, and your friend responding with how much it costs to rent from Blockbuster. There’s only one Blockbuster left, and it’s in Oregon, USA. They sell Blockbuster-themed beanies and sunglasses and you should definitely check them out, but unless you live in Oregon, you shouldn’t be suggesting them as a feasible rental video source to anyone.

The next time you hear someone talk about responsive design as optional, here’s a few tidbits to keep in mind:

The fight for internet dominance
is long over.

By 2016, mobile internet traffic overtook desktop traffic, and that divide has only continued to grow. In fact, between the years of 2011 and 2018, daily mobile internet consumption had grown by 504% Read: The internet is finally going to be bigger than TV worldwide .

504%. No, that’s not an extra zero in the middle.

Here are some other stats for you:

All this means that without a responsive website that adapts to the wide variety of screen sizes out there, you’re missing out on a huge portion of potential customers.

An unresponsive website
hurts your brand. A lot.

It doesn’t matter how cool your website looks on desktop when over half your visitors are pinching, zooming, and squinting to see your content. It’s a waste of time and frustrating for users. It also casts serious doubts on your brand image.

If your website isn’t responsive, your visitors will assume:

  • It hasn’t been revamped since before 2014 (i.e. the brand is old, and not in a good way);
  • It has been revamped, but mobile design wasn’t considered (i.e. the brand is out-of-touch with the current market);
  • It has been revamped, but you didn’t want to spend the extra money on mobile design (i.e. the brand feels cheap and insincere).

None of these are things you want your customers to associate with your brand.

Brand image is everything. With reviews and alternatives available at the tap of a finger, your fully responsive website is one of the most effective tools of social proof you can have.

Responsive design is the least
of our concerns.

Designers and developers have had years now to get used to the basics of responsive websites. We’ve had our ‘firsts’: First flexible grid system, first scaling typography, first mobile-only subdomains. Then we found the problems in the first responsive approach and iterated. We optimized. We made sure links were a clickable size, we incorporated popular touchscreen gestures, and we made websites faster.

As responsive design grew out of its awkward teenage phase, it started dealing with even more elaborate problems like:

Today, we have almost a decade’s worth of mistakes and solutions to learn from, and poorly-designed responsive websites that don’t learn from those years will stand out like sore thumbs. Today, it’s not good enough for your website to be just responsive. It needs to be fast, accessible, and above all, effective.

If you’re still talking about whether or not your website should be responsive, you have fallen way, way behind.

What now?

I honestly didn’t think a blog post on responsive design was warranted: we’re in 2020 now! But while visiting family over the holidays, I noticed my mother’s frustration while browsing on her tablet. Like most Millennial children used to helping older relatives with new technology, I immediately poked my head over her shoulder to see what the problem was.

So many of the websites she needed to use weren’t responsive, or so poorly designed they might as well have not been responsive at all.


A lot can change in 10 years. We didn’t know what was coming in the 2010s any more than we know what’s coming in the 2020s now. But if you’re still working with the last decade’s ‘bare minimum’, how are you supposed to prepare for the future?

If you’re going to make one New Year’s resolution for your business in 2020, let it be this:

Don’t just make your website ‘responsive’.

Make it right.

How can a wicked mobile design help your business? Talk to our web design specialists, and we’ll show you!

About the author

I'm a designer and programmer with a can-do attitude and a song recommendation for every mood. Good design is like music: it moves people. If at first you don't succeed, try again with a different soundtrack.
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