The short answer.

“No.” Thanks for reading, bye!

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Still here? I guess I should explain my answer then.

First, is it the right question?

Perhaps the better question is, should responsive web design be offered as a value-added service? An à la carte item on the menu of services you are provided by vendors? To which my answer is again, “No.”

In my previous article about responsive design being more than just a trend and being a strategic process, I discussed a few reasons why RWD (responsive web design) is such an integral part of the web today. If you’ve read through that post, you have an understanding of what all goes into planning, designing, and developing a responsive and user-friendly website. So why do I believe RWD is not a choice? Because I am a benevolent dictator, that’s why! Kidding. I don’t think it should be a choice because I believe it should be the standard method of delivery. Or at least the first option you think about. “Why,” you might ask.

 The year of mobile, again!

Since 2008 marketers, paid-search specialists, SEO gurus, designers, and, of course, developers have been told, or have been telling you, this is the year of mobile. 2015 is really no different.

Mobile to overtake fixed Internet access by 2014” was the huge headline summarising the bold prediction from 2008 by Mary Meeker, an analyst at Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers who reviews technology trends annually in May (see latest KPCB mobile technology trends).

Well, we’re now past the mobile Tipping Point as this report from comScore shows. So it’s no longer a case of asking whether mobile marketing is important; we know it is! It’s now a question of using the statistics to understand how consumers behave when using different types of mobile devices and what their preferences are. Source: Statistics on mobile usage and adoption to inform your mobile marketing strategy by Danyl Bosomworth

I should mention, this shouldn’t be news to you if you’re a marketer reading this. If, however, you’re a non-marketing, decision-making, I-dont-care-how-it’s-done-just-do-it type looking for why mobile is important and you also want to know why it is no longer a choice to create a strategy around mobile for your website, continue reading.

Future Proof…for now.

“Next Saturday night, were sending you back… to the future!” It’s important to realize that future proofing your website is more than just making it responsive. It means keeping your content fresh, your blog posts timely and relevant; it’s a strategy. How do you keep your vehicle running past 100k miles? You take care of it, making improvements and upgrades along the way, you keep your tires inflated to the manufactured recommended PSI, etc. etc. You ensure that time, elements, and various other factors don’t prematurely age your precious ride. The bottom line is that what is great today, may not still be great 2-3 years from now. Responsive design is but one piece of the puzzle that ensures your website is optimized for what’s to come in the ever-changing landscape of technology. And, if you’re wondering, yes.. I’m anxiously awaiting the first hoverboard.

We can rebuild him. We have the technology.

I’m a sucker for a good parable or analogy. I often use the medical profession because…well, I really like procedural medical dramas *cough* Grey’s Anatomy *cough*. I enjoy watching skilled practitioners (actors, I know) perform complex, life-saving surgeries all while under pressure. “Push 100mg of epinephrine, STAT!” (Please forgive me if I just hypothetically killed my patient with that dosage).

Real doctors are specialized in what they do and they’re damn good at it – or better be! You probably feel the same way about your marketing specialist, SEO specialist and your design and technology gurus. What makes these individuals better at their jobs? Building process and efficiencies. How can I, as a developer, deliver the same quality of work, faster? I build a framework that allows me to never start from scratch.

These processes and frameworks of efficiency mean rapid prototyping and iterative, or maybe you’ve heard agile, development. For you, that means you’re seeing the end product as it’s being built on the assembly line. You get to make decisions along the way and are encouraged to collaborate with us on building the best output. Using these frameworks gives us a starting point that is not the dreaded “blank canvas.”  What happens when we remove those processes and frameworks? We’ll touch on that in a minute.

Reality check. It’s going to be an investment.

There is going to be an upfront investment of time, energy, planning, and content strategizing. We’re going go through many iterations of the design for mobile, tablets, phablets, and desktops. And finally, even though there are efficiencies in the process, there will be an investment in not only development, but testing and quality assurance. All that means for you is what I would affectionately say is “more bang for your buck.”

What you get is a team of specialists working with you throughout the process. You have your anesthesiologist to manage your airways and manage pain, the scrub nurses to aid each specialist and ensure the right instruments are being passed, your lead surgeon or surgeons and their supporting team members to perform all the right cuts and minimizing exposure.

Responsive. Not just for websites.

While we’re discussing RWD, we need to also understand that this methodology is not exclusive to websites. Have you considered responsive emails, landing pages, and microsites? If you haven’t – guess what – this is the year of mobile! Again. To say that mobile email is on the rise would be an understatement.

Mobile email will account for 15 to 70% of email opens, depending on your target audience, product and email type.

53% of total email opens occurred on a mobile phone or tablet in Q3 2014. This is an increase from the 48% percent seen in Q2 2014. – Experian “Quarterly email benchmark report” (Q3 2014)

More email is read Mobile than on a desktop email client. Stats say 48% of email is now opened on a mobile device –Litmus “Email Analytics” (Jan 2015)

– eMailmonday– “the Ultimate mobile email stats” (2014)

So why stop at website strategy? You are likely sending emails to your clients. Perhaps even doing marketing automation. What about promoting your new Widget with a mobile-friendly landing page? Lets take it a step further and build a microsite for that Widget, optimized for mobile users on up to desktop.

Let me drive it home with this statement: Responsive design is not merely a trend, it’s a strategic overhaul of doing business and serving your clients.

We just need a website. Responsive doesn’t matter.

I hope I’ve explained why that sentiment isn’t truly accurate. Even still, you want a good-looking, well-performing website. We won’t totally remove the processes, but the framework of efficiencies that made the design and development process faster will no longer be there. That is not to say there doesn’t exist non-responsive framework efficiencies. We wouldn’t be where we are today, pre-responsive, without them; however, why would we want to go back? Heath Ledger’s “Joker” said it best, “There’s no going back. You’ve changed things… forever.”

So, why wouldn’t you consider responsive? There are some valid reasons why responsive may not actually be the best choice. Perhaps your analytics show that the majority of your traffic still comes from IE 7 or 8. Why would that matter? Older browsers, specifically those mentioned, don’t handle responsive design. Think of it this way, modern design and technology need modern browsers. You still have options, of course. There are mobile-only websites. But, unless you have a good content management plan in place – you’ll likely be making updates in two or more places.

With all that said, should responsive design be an optional feature to your website? Honestly, it can be. Should it be? Again, no. We’re in a world of immediate response and those interactions are happening on mobile platforms. Responsive design is not merely a trend. It’s a standard.

The Word according to Sal. Amen.

This article was originally posted on the Astadia Blog.