Responsive design seems to have become this approach to design that says:

If we take our existing website and give it a responsive design, then we’re good for mobile, right?

Well, actually – NO!

I commented on this at a talk I gave on mobile UX last week to the Cambridge Mobile App Group.

I gave the Adobe products page as an example.  On desktop browsers this is a 4 column page listing all their products, featured products, and other info.

A year ago, you got the same thing on mobile as you did on desktop – a ridiculously big page for a smartphone sized screen. You had to choose between

a) seeing more content but not being able to click efficiently on a link without hitting 5 at the same time


b) being able to touch the links but having to pan around a lot to discover and browse content.

Now, Adobe made the page responsive, but all the same content is still there on the one page. Yes, the headers have some less important items squashed together into a drop menu, but the result of the responsive tweak is that there is now a massive great long page because all four columns have become one long one. Hence – a hell of a lot of scrolling.

In a way, I’m actually torn between the non responsive and the responsive design of this page (neither are good). In the non responsive design, all parts of the page are reachable more easily – the two dimensional layout means no point on the page is really that far away. But on the responsive design, the bottom of the page is faaaar awaaaaay from the top, likely meaning more touch interaction required to browse the page. Features that were fairly oriented towards top right, (by virtue of being placed top of the fourth column), such as ‘Log in to Creative Cloud’, now end up being 80% of the way down the page.

Also the Featured Products area has become paged via a left and right arrow that is less than 1mm wide!

My complaint with many sites moving to responsive design is that a half-baked global responsive approach to large websites does not address the detail of interaction at the level where users will actually notice the changes. It’s a top down instead of a bottom up approach.

Designers need to think more about designing for touch and that means a bottom up rethink of the way users interact with content, not just throwing this responsive skin around it as a slapdash way of porting a website to the realm of mobile usability.

And as Brian Fling says, “Great mobile products are created, never ported