RWD Is A Natural Evolution Of The Web — And It's Here To Stay

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.

In our 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. 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 your mobile needs, and you shouldn’t treat it as such. To help our clients determine if RWD is right for them, we devised a simple seven-step decision tool that we hope will help you determine if RWD is a fit for your organization's mobile web needs. You can access the tool in our report.

If our framework points you toward RWD, you might be interested to know which of your 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 you a benchmark of what other online retailers have already accomplished.  


Mark and I are continuing our research on RWD (expect more from us soon), but in the meantime, we would love to hear more about your experiences with RWD (good and bad).



RWD isn't always best for SEO

There's a common misconception that you echo in your research that since Google has stated that they prefer responsive web design that it's always the best option for the user and SEO. This just isn't the case. As I describe in a recent Smashing Magazine article, responsive sites have difficulty connecting with users who use platform-specific queries, they are often bloated and slow and have difficulty creating content that's as useful in context as sites with dedicated HTML: SEO is necessary regardless of what type of mobile site configuration you use. Disney may have checked a box for responsive web design when they redid their Disney Junior site, but actually made the site less usable to searchers in the process. I can't imagine this could be good for findability.

Right on Peter! We at

Right on Peter! We at Optaros are talking to many companies who think of RWD as the "silver bullet" and, as you say, it simply is not the case.

To that end, we spend a lot of time with our clients to understand their customers, their business needs, challenges, their budgets, team makeup and longer term vision to decide which mobile solution will best fit their needs.

In many cases RWD is the right fit but often times, it is not.

Thanks for the is key here!