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I have to start with an admission, technology sometimes frustrates me. Not in a ‘what does this do?’… ‘Why do I need a social network?’… ‘A computer on you FACE!?!!?’ way, I’m totally comfortable with and enjoy new technology. But sometimes…. I get a little frustrated when things don’t work the way I want them to. Essentially, technology has made parts of my life so convenient that I react like a spoilt four-year-old when I find something I can’t do.

This may be the main reason I hate responsive design mobile sites.

First, I’ll outline why responsive design is a great idea for inbound marketing. Websites that work across platforms are great for users and marketers. By creating a site that offers different options depending on user choice, you can reach new users and new markets. When you adapt your offering to meet evolving needs you can strengthen your connection and build a loyal customer base.

That’s the theory. The problem is that current responsive design sites don’t fulfill any of the criteria mentioned above. In truth, they fail in each of these areas.

Going Mobile

The key target for responsive design is to create a better experience on mobile devices. Ask yourself how many mobile sites you’ve visited that work better than the desktop site. Remember I said ‘better’ not ‘just as well’. Because if the desktop site works just as well on mobile as the mobile site, then what’s the point?

Most mobile sites force you into a stretched-out, downward-scrolling version of the original site. Images are forced between blocks of text and most design elements are done away with. Navigation occurs through a drop-down version of the original menu, with an abridged footer menu at the bottom. Meaning you have to select the menu, then select from the list to find the page you want.

Exactly the same as you would with a desktop site on mobile. Of course, the paired-down, restricted version is there to make better use of your tiny mobile screen. Except, my phone has a 5” screen, I’d wager yours is at least 3.5” and I’ll bet it allows you to zoom to text with a double-tap.

So once again, what’s the point in restricting you to a single column zoomed page when your phone can adequately display the page and allow you to zoom for yourself? That’s not adapting to user needs, that’s restricting user options.

Responsive Design For Inbound Marketing

The target for inbound marketing is to create online content and marketing materials that people love. Using responsive design to create your website is meant to create a version of your site that delights your customers by giving them an experience that fits their desire to use a mobile device.

Responsive design limits an inbound marketer’s ability to create visually stunning content and forces content designed on a desktop site to be viewed in a way that wasn’t originally intended. As I’ve mentioned, I hate responsive design sites, especially for reading blogs and other written content. Short posts feel like they go on forever and if you get to the middle and decide to navigate away; you often have no choice but to use browser options rather than onsite links. Even mobile sites that offer swipe menus can be frustratingly fiddly.

Another key target in inbound marketing is to build lasting loyalty in users. Responsive design is supposed to help this by adapting your content to fit their screen choice. Instead, they get a restricted experience and often one that often can’t be corrected. If the user first encountered you on their desktop they arrive at a location that looks only vaguely familiar and in many cases, because the site doesn’t allow them to switch to the desktop version, they’re stuck there. Instead of building loyalty, you’re giving them a reason to look elsewhere and a specific factor for them to look for in a competitor.

As I mentioned I hate responsive design mobile sites, but I love the concept. Providing a great mobile experience is something all inbound marketers should aspire to. The problem for now is that, unlike rain on your wedding day, responsive design websites provide a perfect dictionary definition of irony. They are designed to reduce frustration and provide ease of use through a mobile device; instead they offer a fiddly user-unfriendly experience only likely to frustrate your visitors.

Before I leave you, consider the difference between these two mobile versions of desktop sites. Micorsoft.com is a responsive site that looks good but is woefully long and shoves all of its navigation into a tiny menu bar. On the other hand mobile.dungs.com gives you a paired down site that’s easy to navigate with the navigation built into the design of the mobile pages. Neither is perfect but which is easier to use?

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