Should Users Have the Option to Switch Off Responsive Design?

There are few reasons not to use a Responsive Web Design. Unless you have the time, budget and inclination to develop a separate mobile site or app, RWD techniques can assist your users on mobile and older devices.

But what if a user doesn’t want a mobile-optimized view of your site?

This question has been discussed by industry giants including Bruce Lawson and Roger Johansson. The possible reasons include:

  1. The user regularly uses the desktop site but becomes disorientated in mobile view.
  2. The mobile website hides content or features the user wants to use (admittedly, that may be bad design decisions but many sites do exactly that).
  3. Modern smartphone browsers render desktop sites reasonably well and a user prefers scanning and zooming.
  4. It would allow developers or support personnel to view desktop layout issues when using a mobile device.
  5. Shouldn’t the user be able to select what’s best for them?

On the plus side, the concept appears to tick usability boxes and providing options is a good thing.

Or is it?

How many people would understand the switch? How many would use it? In my experience, non-technical users prefer fewer choices and, ideally, want the software or someone else to select what’s best for them. In addition, could they hit “switch to fixed layout” then find it difficult to revert to mobile view.

I’m sure there will be some good use cases but, personally, I think RWD offers more compelling advantages to the majority of users than disadvantages to the minority.

Perhaps this is a real issue users have encountered with your site? Or perhaps this is an over-engineered solution looking for a problem? I’m leaning toward the latter, but would love to hear your views…

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  • http://agenerousdesigner.com Andras Matzon

    As pointed out, different content for mobile is a bad decision and one more option for the user is not helping them. But I see one good reason for the switch button for a general site: you could get bit deeper understanding of what your users are doing/looking for when they switch to desktop view and improve the site based on that.

    • Steve

      Very good point, Madras! I’m glad you mentioned this.

    • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

      There is a case for totally different content on mobile because it’s a different usage context but that means creating a separate site or app.

      RWD designs which simply hide content to make it fit on a mobile screen probably need re-thinking. I would hope any mobile site would allow the user to dig deeper without switching to a desktop view.

      • jamie

        i disagree. i dont believe it should be taken as a different usage context. mobile is starting to overtake desktop with all the tablets out there, just because you are visiting from a “mobile” device doesnt mean you’re in a car quickly trying to find directions. i use a galaxy note and most of my leisure browsing is done from that, whether i’m on my couch, on a bus, at a coffeeshop etc. i am loathe to be limited to what someone else decided i might want to use the site for just because i happen to not be on desktop.

      • http://www.tyssendesign.com.au John Faulds

        I’m with jamie, i.e. I disagree. If you think there’s a case for different content it means you’ve made assumptions about how/where/why people are using your sites and on what devices.

        A couple of years ago you might’ve been able to get away with arguing that people using small screens are ‘on the go’, or looking for quick, location-based information, but not these days.

        I for one, have never visited a small-screen optimised site and gone looking for the link to view the desktop version. Although I don’t always read full articles on my phone, so if it looks interesting enough and I feel like I’d be better reading it on a bigger screen, I just add the link to Readability to come back to later.

      • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

        It all depends on the application.

        For example, a content website probably shouldn’t be too different other than a small-screen-friendly view.

        However, a large high-street store will probably want to emphasize directions over ecommerce on a mobile. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. It may be frustrating for a few people surfing from home on their phone, but they’re going with what the majority needs.

    • http://responsivewpthemes.org Akhtar

      Andras,
      Yes. and I agree with him.

  • http://E-commsolution.com Chris

    Well said, I have started to add a class to the body tag of the site and have all responsive code based on that class. This is something that Chris Coyier talked about on css-tricks.com and I thought it was a good idea. With that class I can use JS to remove it and the site will spring back to full size and even set cookies but I have not done that part yet as no one has requested it.

  • http://tim.igoe.me.uk Tim Igoe

    Certainly differently content is a bad decision, I can’t say I’m a fan of having mobile ish designs forced on you as a desktop user either. Its got to the point that I can’t actually browse some of the sites I used to now on my laptop, their responsive design doesn’t work at all well on its aging, but not shockingly small resolution screen (1280×800).

    I’m still one for a distinctly separate mobile / tablet (but responsive) view to desktop.

  • http://www.thinkenduser.com/ Linda

    I think accessibility, usability and responsive web design all go hand in hand together. My design theory is design once for every device. I feel this can be accomplished using fluid grid style layouts, percentages and media queries. The KISS ( Keep it simple stupid or silly ) design principle is still effective today. Keep it simple, consistent and effective for everyone no matter the browsing device. That’s my perspective anyway.

    • http://www.braillemedia.co.uk John Sexton

      Yes, I agree keep it simple, UX/UI is important, its about giving people a choice and great experience. Not about taking anything away, or giving a lesser service based on device.
      RWD is still a relative new concept and has been badly implimented in many cases. It will never be possible to please everyone but by giving people a choice and seeing and lerning from their choices we build better site experiences.

      I am a fan of flooid design, it gives flexibility not available in fixed pixel designs. I don’t agree with restricting content based on user device but instead progressive enhancements based on device support.
      Screen readers read content in a linier fassion regardless of device, so weather you have 1 or 5 layout columns, I still get the content the same way, on a desktop, mobile and tablet.

      Its an interesting discussion with no right or wrong answer but plenty of food for thought.

  • Tim

    Absolutely! Given the choice I will 100% of the time always switch to the normal site layout.

    • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

      Really? Even if it’s unreadable on a small screen and you need to pan and zoom?

      • Gilbert

        Yes, I am one of them.
        Most the cellphone I see have a resolution of 1200 by something even “Full HD” now in 2013.
        8 time over 10, I am just scrolling to find the link to the normal layout – which 8 time of 10 I don’t find. And I just leave the site to potentially later use a normal desktop… or not…

        Ok, I own a Galaxy Note 2. That’s maybe why.

        I think responsive design is dead by essence in a few years (except for those who will buy the small iWatch or whatever tiny screen… At least how it is implemented now (most of the time badly…).
        Leave me the choice!

      • Ellie

        I agree too with Gilbert.
        Resolution is now bigger on cellphone that what we had a couple of years ago on desktop.
        It was maybe true with the first modern phones (iphone) (tiny screen and resolution if you compare with the latest standards), but if you look at the trend now, that is not the case anymore.
        Forced responsive design is a bad solution and just turn customers away most of the time…
        It is just a fad IMHO, in 2 years time, you will not think about it anymore, or it has to be seriously improved…
        Anyway with screens like the popular Samsung (III, IV, Notes 2) from the last 2 years (and more coming – this trend is not going to stop), just rotate your screen in landscape, and you will see that you get a lot more from a normal design than from a responsive design…
        And anyway “soon” you will even have pico projector or direct echo on a big screen from your cell (for the 2nd point, it is already here)…
        Responsive design is only a distractor with poor anticipation, short minded vision – if it is forced. Let it RIP…

    • jamie

      i second this. when a website doesnt have the full site option i fume, particularly when the responsive/mobile site has less functionality than the desktop. Responsive is almost never an enjoyable experience for me, particularly when ive used the desktop prior. contrary to their intent, i usually find them much more of a pain to use.

    • Robert

      @Gilbert and @Ellie.
      You are both right about the resolutions when comparing mobile and desktop. But that’s why some (including me) are looking into using dpi and or dpcm in screen, handheld, and print media type queries, instead of pixels. It will be more reliable.

      BTW, I remember seeing a similar discussion last year in Zurb’s Google Group for Foundation. It was still in my bookmarks : groups.google.com/forum/?fromgroups=#!topic/foundation-framework-/JR10pMx5ylI
      I remember having to walk away from my desktop/device each time the urge came up to get involved. I was going to do the same now for the same 2 reasons. It depends on the info/data presented, and the decision of what makes it in the mobile layout is mostly made by designers alone.
      One example of “it depends on the data” : Tabular data, e.g. product comparison tables are not very well suited to RWD. (Requirements Planning and Forecasting, are other examples of tabular data. The wider and taller the screen the better.)
      Decisions by designers : leaving out rows/columns (based on what?), introducing an iframe with scrollbars, slicing the table at a certain number of columns and moving the remaining columns underneath, leaving out the table and having to touch/click a button to show it in a separate window, etc are not really improving anything.
      BTW, I’m guilty as hell with this one, because I have no better resolution to present a full table on a 4-5 inch screen. I always make the table horizontally scrollable in a separate window. (Sometimes also vertically depending on the number of rows.)
      I’m lucky to have worked as both a back-end coder, DB-designer and front-end designer. And still do. But as a backend-coder it’s a lot easier. Just mold the data in the requested format and be done with it. Data presentation is not something a backend-coder gets asked about very often. Usually only : “Can you present it in this format?”. But then the decision has already been made.

      BTW, it’s funny. Still in the CRT screen days many would zoom out to 2048×1536 resolution in Photoshop or Illustrator to get a full view of a design. The screen would flicker like hell and leave you cross-eyed. Everything was way too small to be readable, but it was great to be able to do that for a quick impression. It was a bit like seeing the whole webpage on a 4-5 inch screen. The latter being much sharper though and without flicker.

  • http://rwd-demo.ama3.com/ Andrew M. Andrews III

    Short answer: users should have whatever features make the most sense for your business to provide them.

    Long answer: as with most software (or in fact most complex products), I think the key is to provide options in such a way that don’t confuse novice users but accommodate the preferences of more experienced users. No matter how well you design your site, it’s naive (or arrogant?) to believe that everyone using the same-sized device thinks the same way, has the same needs, etc. In my experience, providing RWD by default, with simple options (narrow|wide|auto) is a pretty unobtrusive way to accommodate a variety of preferences.

    For a basic example, follow my Website link (rwd-demo.ama3.com/). For the PHP source code, download rwd-demo.ama3.com/rwd-demo.zip … the code uses a cookie called “layout” to tell the server which content should be sent based on which styles will be applied.

    • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

      I agree that it’s whatever makes most business sense but I suspect the majority of users won’t care about or use a layout switch.

      Interesting demo, but you’re hiding the left and right columns when switching to “narrow” view. Shouldn’t that content be available regardless of the device you’re using?

      • http://rwd-demo.ama3.com/ Andrew M. Andrews III

        Absolutely, which is why they are added to the nav menu when they are removed from the view. :)

      • DaveMaxwell

        If they’re anything like my wife, they will. On most sites that have mobile/RWD designs, she goes looking for the full site link – she HATES them with a passion. She hates having to hunt to find the content she wants (and most RWD do limit the content being shown, right or wrong).

        My wife isn’t the most technically limited person, but she does have her limits. Especially when she hits mobile sites on her 10″ tablet but gets the full site on her 14″ laptop.

  • http://www.airelon.com Paul D. Mitchell @ business web design company

    Hi, Responsive web design assists you to give importance to your SEO attempts on one single goal despite seeking to build traffic. Some businesses go for a mobile app as an alternative to mobile site; the problem with that is Google can’t index apps and therefore won’t be able to explore it. Also, any user-generated content added to an app won’t be indexed. Responsive web design caters to this problem by making content that can be easily indexed by search engines.

    Regards
    Paul D. Mitchell

  • gofry

    Responsive web design is something that makes me leave the site and never come back. Why on earth would I want to access the same content in two different ways just because I have different device? Not to mention that some website simply don’t provide all the content for mobile devices.

    And disabling zooming for mobile device? How evil must the person be to torture us like that?! ;-)

  • http://www.ihatetomatoes.net Petr Tichy

    Interesting discussion here. I personally don’t see a reason to include “view full site” if the visitor comes from mobile.

    If the site is designed and developed with RWD in mind from the start, then the content should be accessible from both mobile and dektop devices. There shouldn’t be a reason to show/hide too many elements across devices.

    Remember content is why people are visiting a website, not because of the layout. And let’s be honest, zooming and panning on mobile is not the best user experience, that’s why I fully support RW design and development.

  • Doug

    I’m for being able to switch! The first example that pops in my mind is Slashdot. They created a mobile version of their site. I was presented with the option of trying the mobile site, but it was laggy and buggy on my Samsung Transform Ultra. I know my phone is a bit old now and doesn’t have much horsepower, but I’m not upgrading anytime soon. I was glad that I could switch back to the desktop version of the site.

    Another example is Wells Fargo. I tried to use their site on my phone (it was a while back; maybe it’s better now?). It auto-detected that I was mobile and gave me a mobile version of the site that doesn’t do much of anything compared to the desktop site.

    Responsive design is cool and all, but a mobile version of a web site shouldn’t be LESS functional than the desktop version, in my opinion.

  • Tim

    Ok, here is another viewpoint. If a site is responsive and automatically sense what resolution is being used, what happens if I’m on my desktop, but (as I often do) want to have multiple browser windows open at the same time next to each other to compare things on different sites?
    I often have a couple browser windows with different site open and size them accordingly to fit on my screen. So, if I do that and then the site senses that I’ve sized down my window, it’s going to render the tablet sized version instead of the full width version, even though the full width version is what I want to see.
    There are multiple reasons for sites to give people the option of choosing what they want to view. Let the user decide.

    UI’s are important things and I don’t think most web developers realize that. Web designers know a little better. Developers seem to do things based on what they think is “cool” or to show off their coding skills rather than thinking about how the end user WANTS to interact with a site.

    A perfect example of this (although not a website) is Windows 8 start menu. Start menu replacement apps have been downloaded more than any other app for Windows 8. Why? Not because people hate change. Because Microsoft’s solution wasn’t well thought out.

  • Stevie D

    The main reason that I use mobile versions of sites where I can is because they are much lighter and leaner, and don’t include gazillobytes of Javascript, which absolutely kills my phone – more data downloaded (risk of hitting my monthly limit), and thrashes the hell out of the processor which makes the sites slow and unresponsive, not to mention draining the battery like a bath with the plug out.

    But that’s a mobile version of the site. Responsive design often misses out on those advantages because it’s downloading exactly the same content. Sometimes the mobile-size stylesheet works really well … but other times it doesn’t. That could be because they haven’t tested it on enough different phones, or because I’m trying to do something that they hadn’t envisaged people wanting to do on a mobile … but for whatever reason, sometimes the mobile-size stylesheet just doesn’t cut the mustard. So in those circumstances, it would be helpful if there was an option to switch out to the full-size stylesheet. No, you probably wouldn’t get many people taking that option, but what harm does it do to have it there?

  • http://www.chesterho.com Chester Ho

    What if a user could switch back to the desktop layout in a mobile device? Let’s imagine the situation. The user may load the website longer than s/he could put up with. Large images and complicated script in desktop version are the reasons of many websites adopted RWD, after all it’s not cheap.

    Starting from this point of view, I think it’s risky to provide an option for users to disable RWD. For example, if a user disorientated in mobile view because s/he browsed the desktop version regularly. I may wonder if the website is too complicated, so the RWD version has taken away too many content from the desktop version. Otherwise, if the RWD does only adjust the number of items in a row, re-positioning the sidebar ads and etc, the learning curve for users should be acceptable.

    Furthermore, provided that the mobile device could render the site as good as desktop version (most likely an iPad), the RWD should be logically more or less the same as the desktop one. (Again, re-design is expensive, the webmaster should minimize the design work if it renders well in certain dimensions)

    Last but not least, for the professional, they should have their ways (or alternative ways) to do the testing.

    At least, the reasons are not yet strong enough to convince me for adding a button/link to disable the RWD version. But it is certainly a meaningful discussion!

    Thanks for sharing, Craig.

  • Jeff Seager

    This is an interesting and very welcome discussion, so thanks to everyone who’s weighed in on it. And to you, Craig, for kicking it off.
    Craig, you seem a little stuck on the notion that significant content in a hypothetical responsive design would be “hidden” from mobile. I’d suggest that IF that’s happening (and it probably is, somewhere, at this very moment), someone is doing something wrong. There are good reasons to re-prioritize and shuffle content into a different form, based on user assessment or intelligent guesses about how people use the site on mobile devices; there are no good reasons to hide any content that has value — and if it doesn’t have high value, it shouldn’t be there in the first place. This is as true of an informational site as it is of e-commerce.

    The idea of a “switch” of some kind really doesn’t appeal to me. Though it isn’t quite the same, it conveys the same impression as parallel development of desktop and mobile, and the simple fact is that you can cram only so much stuff onto a small screen before it all becomes entirely useless. So you have to scroll a bit to find what you’re used to seeing (or expect to see) on the big screen … This is why we have navigation elements, including search and breadcrumbs and menus, and such elements ought to be prominent and easy to use on ANY device. Good design will guarantee that. We need to learn not to make so many assumptions about what people need, and simply give them the tools to tell us what they need when they need it. Sounds easy enough, but I guess sometimes it isn’t.

    One thing’s for sure: We’re all still learning how to get it right, and at some level we’re demanding that users keep learning too, and if we fail to listen to one another in this changing territory we will soon go wrong. That’s why discussions like this are profoundly important, not so much for what we think or say about our own opinions, but for what we hear about the opinions and thoughts of others who are plowing the same field.

    • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

      Hi Jeff. I totally agree hiding content is (usually) wrong? I haven’t said otherwise.

      I’m not convinced by the switch proposal. While a number of people here make good points, they are power users who understand RWD. I suspect it would confuse the majority.

      However, my main concern is this: when used well, RWD isn’t a choice between mobile and desktop. It’s about presenting the site in an optimal way for the resolution you’re using. It’s fluid and there are hundreds of possibilities — not just two.

      Even if you have a simple mobile and desktop layout, the switch must be sized and positioned identically in both views so the user can easily revert back. It all sounds like too much hassle to me!

  • http://www.trivial.ly Nicholas Johnson

    This is the same situation we faced during the browser wars, people trying to be too clever, testing in one device and alienating swathes of their users. A responsive design should linearise the layout and optionally buttonise the navigation. Much beyond that and your putting in effort to actively degrade your user’s experience.

    Don’t try to emulate a native app. Never ever capture gestures. Don’t hide content with display:none. You will just piss people off. Your funky javascript swipes may work great on an iPhone. Do they work on Chrome, Opera Mobile, IE Mobile (all versions), Android Browser, Dolphin, as well as every unpatched, out of date version currently in the wild?

    Ultimately the darwinian nature of the web will take care of the problem. Until then there’s Firefox Mobile which allows you to disable the meta viewport tag.

    Don’t do that stuff. Linearise, buttonise, reduce the padding, that is all.

    • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

      I totally agree, Nicholas. However, the comments here indicate RWD is being used badly on the web.

      • http://www.trivial.ly Nicholas Johnson

        Absolutely, and natural selection will take care of such sites for us. Sorry for the rant. People get so carried away with cool presentation that they forget their content. Another gripe is the constant popups from sites advertising that they now have an app.

        There is a lack of understanding out there, that the dash for mobile need not be complex or costly. If the HTML has been made well it’s usually as simple as 10 lines of code.

        Firefox mobile allows you to request a desktop view in those situations where a designer has made a complete hash of the thing.

      • http://www.trivial.ly Nicholas Johnson

        So my point is that there’s already a switch, if your tech savvy enough to install the right browsers and plugins.

  • J

    I can’t stand when a site forces me to view some half-assed version of their regular site just b/c I’m using a phone. An iPhone is not NOT the same as “mobile web” and it’s just disrespectful to show me a different ghetto version in the first place, not giving me an option out is absolutely not acceptable.

    True, your mobile version should be as functional as the desktop version but this is not true in ANY mobile site I personally have ever come across. Mobile is an afterthought no matter what your position is on what it *should* be and the rush to responsive design leaves more people out of the loop when the point is the opposite.

    • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

      Thanks J. Can you post some URLs. It would be interesting to see how RWD is being used in the wild so we can learn from them and make constructive suggestions.

  • Gail H.

    Perhaps a lot of this disagreement could be cleared up if the browser user agent strings were re-tooled and standardized to include device information. There are hundreds of UA strings out there, but it is nearly impossible to discern from them whether the device is a desktop/laptop, notepad, or phone. The browser usually “knows” what sort of device it resides on, and a simple parameter called “device,” with options like “full | mobile | phone,” would make it much easier for designers to make device appropriate layout decisions.

    And, of course, a switch is always a nice feature. If the responsive design is properly implemented, it should be reasonably simple to provide a cookie that permits the user to select the preferred “device style.” Assuming, of course, that the device supports cookies, and that they are not disabled.

    • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

      I disagree the disagreement could be cleared up!

      You’re advocating browser sniffing (or at least rudimentary device sniffing). The web should be browser agnostic — it shouldn’t matter what device the user has. Even if you did know, it’s not a case of mobile or desktop but a whole range of options, i.e. the screen resolution, DPI, color-depth, bandwidth availability etc. You’d never be able to express everything in a UA string and parsing it would still be problematic.

  • bob dronski

    I find it highly presumptuous that we designers/developers know what’s best for the client under any circumstances. Seriously, what does it hurt to have the capability to change over to the desktop version of a site? Do we really know every reason (whether we deem it important or not) that someone would need or not need to switch?

    I’ll give you an example. I have a client that is a plumber. He simply wanted to show off the general look on his site to someone else, but he only had his iPhone with him. I had not given him the option of switching. He couldn’t understand why he couldn’t see the whole site. It didn’t matter to him that it was small in landscape mode, he just wanted to see it and show it off.

    Is that really not a good enough reason for you? It doesn’t have to be an in your face option

    like all these sites that want you to download their apps when on a mobile device but will not give you access to the same content from the app as you can get from the web

    but simply should be available.

    • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

      I don’t think there is a “best for the client” solution. It doesn’t matter what you do: you can’t keep 100% of users happy 100% of the time.

      Overall, I think RWD is a viable option for the majority of users and makes a site easier to use on a small screen. If it doesn’t, I’d suggest it’s the approach that’s failed — not the technology.

  • Sean

    I’m very tired of more limited mobile “sites” bumping the regular site off my Kindle. I’m in b2b but if I was developing for consumers I’d track their preference to stop this restriction of their options.

  • http://www.benleah.co.uk Ben Leah Digital Designer

    I hate to be agnostic on this one but I come down on both sides of the argument dependent on device. For me, the iPhone provides a great interaction between user and website —here I prefer the desktop site. Blackberry or Galaxy devices however are less streamlined and I feel I need the responsive layout.

    • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

      A good RWD site should optimize itself accordingly. I certainly don’t like the concept that it’s either desktop or mobile and nothing in between.

  • http://Postandcourier.com Lonn Bradley

    As long as a site is well designed at full size, I prefer zooming to getting a mobile-optimized version. I expect aps to fit a device’s size, but when browsing I want the same view on mobile as on the desktop. My opinion is to at least offer viewers a choice.

  • Kay Tee

    Hmm, let’s see…we say don’t force our font preference on the user but then some want to force a watered down site on a user in the name of RWD? I’m not saying don’t do RWD–but don’t fail to give me an option to see the desktop version, which is usually the version I prefer to see–even on my cell phone.

    Beyond blogs I’ve found most sites (that I visit anyway) that use RWD to be near useless. I guess it could be because I’m used to the desktop versions where I know where everything is. Nothing worse than being out shopping and trying to find reviews or check prices and you get the lousy “mobile” site that doesn’t make it easy to switch to the desktop site which is easier to navigate.

    Just as bad is RWD done so poorly you can’t even access the navigation controls.

    So yes, do RWD but do it well AND make it easy for me to access the full-blown version of the site as well.

    • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

      The key to remember here that RWD — when done well — should not give you a watered-down version of the site. In some cases, it may even provide further facilities such as geo-location.

      That said, it sounds as though it’s been added as an afterthought on some sites you’ve seen. Can you post some example URLs? It would be good to see the mistakes designers are making so we don’t repeat them.

  • Nick Young

    I vote we leave it to the operating system of the device. I have not run into many issues looking at mobile sites but when I do I can easily (on my current android phone) open the menu and switch to desktop view. I see that as an appropriate solution.

    I also agree with Craig’s comment about most of the arguments here being made by us who understand and know what RWD is. I honestly don’t believe that the majority of your user base will notice the difference besides the fact that it is easy to use on each of their devices.

    • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

      Thanks Nick.

      The “desktop view” implemented in mobile browsers normally changes the useragent string and removes the term “mobile” (or similar). However, RWD doesn’t care about the UA — it responds to the available resolution.

      I do expect you’re right that most people simply won’t notice or care. It’ll only people apparent if you’re running a massively popular website with regular visitors who use a range of devices.

      • Nick Young

        Ah yes I had not considered that it just would change the user agent. That is a very good point!

  • http://www.torbay.gov.uk/ Allan Macfadyen

    When we added RWD media queries to our 2 year old http://www.torbay.gov.uk/ design, we added “desktop view” and “mobile view” links. (We haven’t added RWD to our electronic forms yet – we need to consider Google Maps, text areas and form labels first.) We used “view” to emphasise it is not a separate site.

    • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

      Hi Allan — you’re just down the road from me!

      The site appears to work well. Do you know how much use it gets?

  • https://twitter.com/networkaaron Aaron

    I keep bugging my 5 year old daughter to sit up straight when eating breakfast. Seconds later she’s leaning in, hunched over, trying to read a story on the iPad. I don’t want her to have back problems. I’m visiting my mom and it bugs me to watch her place an iTouch inches from her eyeballs in order to read copy. Many times, my daughter is snuggling with me on the couch and an arm is under her. My other arm holds the device while the thumb is used to navigate the Note II. When we need to zoom in, I have to make a choice between making my daughter uncomfortable by removing my other arm. Or, I have to set the phone down on my lap and awkwardly try to zoom in—zoom out—while the phone slides around—multiple times during daddy daughter time. Rrrr! I can imagine those with missing fingers or an arm go through this many times a day.

    Then there are the days I see a screenshot of a well-designed website featured on TechCrunch. I visit the site with my smartphone and quickly notice it’s responsive and I become frustrated. I wanted to view the desktop version! Now I have to fire up my desktop to get a closer look at it and see if it’s worth saving to Evernote. That’s a lot of work when your whole family is chillaxing on the deck and enjoying the beautiful weather. Then again, my purpose of visiting the site was not to buy the product, only to learn why the screenshot caught my attention.

    What I am noticing is, my family and I tend to re-engage with content that doesn’t make us uncomfortable. Responsible RWD is here for good. I’m hoping the option to switch between desktop and mobile becomes a standard feature built into all devices, smartphones to desktops, and works similar to Responsive Inspector http://outof.me/responsive-inspector-beta-released/.

  • Pawel

    each reasonable browser should have the option to switch to desktop mode. Firefox mobile has the option, but it can’t be set to default, which is really stupid because you have to turn it on each time you visit a page. Fortunately, there’s an add-on that makes FF load desktop version by default.
    Still, it wouldn’t hurt to provide a button in the mobile version of your site to switch to the desktop version. It’s not much hassle, is it?

  • ralph.m

    The needs of the mobile web are helping (some of) us to rethink the nature of web design—especially the loads of junk that clutter many desktop sites. I love the lean, clean look of the better mobile layouts, and have found myself wishing the desktop site looked like that too. (It suits me fine if the site is a narrow column even on a giant 27″ screen. I don’t want to view a site like I’m watching a tennis match from the sidelines.)

    The latest incarnation of A List Apart is a nice example of what I prefer to see. Essentially a one column site that’s easy to read and looks bsically the same on mobile and desktop. I’m hoping that’s the future of the web.

  • http://www.jdaviswebdesign.com Jennifer Davis

    I have a problem with many RWD sites for three main reasons: one, a number of RWD sites are very simplistic design-wise in order to achieve responsiveness (and my clients don’t want such bare designs); two, the cell phone version is extremely scaled down in both form and function (as a user myself I find this frustrating to not find the sections of the site I know are on the desktop version); three, we older folks are real sick and tired of staining to read the itty-bitty font sizes used. Now this last one is the one that really bugs me. Most RWD sites disable the zoom feature on iPhones and iPads, but this means we users are stuck with whatever font size the designer deemed acceptable. And we have no way to change it! Sorry, but taking away accessibility is not kosher with me. I have played with RWD but have not come up with a solution to keep the design responsive and yet keep the user’s ability to zoom and pinch.

  • Joe Blow

    I hate hate hate when I automatically get switched to an annoying app view of the web content I’m trying to look at. It makes me wonder if having a smart phone is really worth the trouble.