Episode 29 – Should you use responsive design?

In this episode Alex talks about responsive design: the benefits, the downsides, and whether you should use it or not.


Hi, my name’s Alex Cleanthous, chief strategist at Web Profits. For those of you who don’t know me, I have a stutter and it comes out when I get excited… and this stuff is exciting. This is my first video for a few months now and there’ve been a lot of updates in the online marketing world this year so I’ll have a lot of great new information to share with you – so stay tuned.

Today, I’m going to be talking about responsive design: the benefits, the downsides, and whether or not it should be used. So let’s get into it.

Responsive design is when your website automatically adjusts to the screen that you’re viewing it on. So, if you’re looking at it on a laptop, it will look different compared to if you’re looking at it on a mobile phone or on a tablet. The website automatically rearranges the information on the page to ‘fit’ (or to respond) to the size of the screen.

The benefits of responsive design are that 1. the website looks good on all screen sizes, 2. You only need to update the content once and it will update across all devices, and 3. it gives a better user experience across all devices compared to just a desktop site.

The major downside of responsive design revolves around the performance of lead generation websites on different platforms. Let me explain. A user visiting your website on a desktop computer will require different information compared to a user visiting your website on their smartphone. With responsive design the same information is used for both the desktop and mobile sites. There are ways to show less information on the mobile site but whatever information is shown on the mobile site is the same as what is on the desktop site, and that may not be the ideal information to maximise conversions.

Which leads me to my next point. The most important part of maximising the performance of your website is ongoing split-testing of your main landing pages, which includes testing headlines, it includes testing offers, calls-to-action and so on. With responsive design the biggest issue is that you can’t split-test the desktop landing pages separately to mobile landing pages – and you really need to, to maximise performance. And for that reason, and that reason alone, I would personally never use responsive design for lead generation sites. Instead, I would make a website that displays the same on both desktops and iPads (although they can be different), and a different site designed for smartphones.

Now ecommerce and information sites (like blogs) are different. Because of the nature of their content, the width of the website and the layout of the content can be adjusted without negatively affecting performance. Of course, you still can’t test different landing pages between devices, but with ecommerce and information sites, you can get away with it.

So, should you use responsive design? If you have an ecommerce site or if you have an information site, then I’d say ‘yes’. But if you have a lead-gen site then I would say ‘no’. It would be far better over the long term to have one site made for desktops and tablets, and another for mobiles.

I’m sure there’ll be people who disagree with what I’m saying, and that’s fine. From my perspective, the ability to optimise a desktop website separately to a mobile website is critical to maximising the conversion rate across each device.

If you disagree or if you have any questions or comments, I’d love to hear your thoughts so feel free to share them in the comments section below this video.

At Web Profits we help companies succeed online and we’d love to help you too. For more free information, or to get in touch, simply visit webprofits.com.au.

I hope you enjoyed this episode of Web Profits TV and I look forward to speaking with you in the next video.

Alex Cleanthous

Alex Cleanthous

Chief Innovation Officer at Web Profits

Alex Cleanthous is Chief Innovation Officer at Web Profits. With more than 10 years experience in online marketing, Alex is always on the lookout for smarter, faster and more scalable ways to achieve maximum growth with minimum spend.

One comment

  1. Super J says:

    Hi Alex,

    But totally disagree, yes responsive needs to get better and this year it will, but mobile design is gone and we have to try and please all users not just one types


    Super J

    June 20th, 2013 at 10:24 am