Selling Responsive Web Design To Clients

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Designing and developing websites that work well on mobile devices is an important aspect of the work we do on today’s Web. This importance is reflected in the conversations I have with clients, almost all of whom list “support for mobile devices” as one of their top goals for a redesign — all except one, that is.

Late last year, I began a redesign project for a company that sells pressure-treated lumber products. Early on in our conversation, I turned to the topic of support for mobile devices and responsive Web design. Normally, this topic is met with enthusiasm, but not this time, as the client explained:

Our customers don’t use mobile phones to come to our website.

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this comment from a potential client. I’ve had many conversations in which the company severely underestimates the number of people who access their website on a phone or other mobile device. Typically, a look at the analytics will open their eyes to the true impact that mobile is having on their website’s traffic. But when I looked at the analytics for this particular client, I was the one left in shock.

Two percent. That was how much of its traffic was coming from mobile devices at the time. That’s it!

Jumping ahead to the end of this story, I did end up working with this client to redesign their website, and that website is now fully responsive. The path we took to that point, however, provides an interesting glimpse into how we as designers can go about selling responsive websites, and when we should push for a solution that we know to be an important best practice and yet whose need is not immediately obvious.

Determine Whether They Actually Need A Mobile Web Experience

The title of this article, “Selling Responsive Web Design To Clients,” might sound like a shady salesperson attempting to convince a customer to purchase something they don’t need. That is not what I am advocating for at all. So, let me start by stating that the first step in this process should be to determine whether the client actually needs a given solution at all.

Make sure your solution fits the client1
Make sure that the solution you are selling fits the client you are pitching it to. (Image: echerries2)

When considering a responsive design for a website that doesn’t currently support mobile devices, begin by looking at the big picture. Do the traffic figures show that the client is attracting mobile users? If the mobile traffic figures are similar to those of this client of mine, then maybe they don’t actually need a mobile Web experience at this time — especially if the website has no other issues.

If a website is currently working well for the organization — meaning that it is converting visitors, features an attractive design, and has a high-quality user experience (for desktop visitors at least), while drawing an incredibly low percentage of mobile users — then redesigning or rebuilding that website only to make it responsive wouldn’t make financial sense.

You could argue that even a small percentage of visitors getting a poor experience is unacceptable and could be resolved by developing a responsive design. The designer in me can appreciate that argument, but I also understand the business side of the situation. Undertaking a responsive redesign to accommodate just 2% of the audience will be a very tough sell, no matter what company you are speaking with. This is why you need to look beyond just the traffic figures and think about more than just the design-related benefits of responsiveness.

Try To Solve Other Problems They Are Having

While support for mobile devices was not a compelling enough reason for our client to redesign their website, other concerns brought them to us in the first place. Two of these concerns were the visual design of their website, which was outdated and did not reflect their current marketing, and the lack of a content management system (CMS) or any tools to enable them to update the website on their own. So, I focused my proposal on solving these problems.

A redesign would bring the look and feel of the website in line with the rest of the client’s marketing, while also improving the overall aesthetics and usability of the website itself. We would bring the website up to current standards and integrate it into a CMS (in this case, ExpressionEngine) — which would solve the second problem of being able to update the website.

As I discussed with the client this proposal and the process we would follow, I mentioned that we would make the website responsive as we rebuilt it. As expected, the client questioned whether this was necessary or added cost to the project — which, of course, it would have. The key here is that I was now able to steer the conversation towards the benefits of responsive design above and beyond the support for mobile devices.

Focus On More Than Just Phones

When we talk about responsive design, we often focus on phones. This makes sense because smartphones are most unlike the type of devices that we’ve designed for in the past — that is, desktop screens. Creating one website to be marketed and managed and to deliver a high-quality experience to all devices, from desktops to smartphones, is an excellent way to demonstrate the flexibility and power of responsive design. But for this client, phone users were seemingly not a factor. Luckily, responsive design is about so much more than phones.

The devices we are designing for today are a variety of sizes3
The devices and screens we design for today are a variety of sizes. (Image: Edwin Torres4)

In speaking with the client, I discovered that a complaint they often receive from customers is that the website appears “small.” The reason is that it had been designed to a fixed width many years ago — so long ago, in fact, that it was built for an 800 × 600-pixel resolution. When a user on what is now a typically large desktop screen visited the website, they saw a very narrow column, with a lot of unused space on either side. Yet, the company still had a number of other visitors on old desktops and laptops with low resolutions. So, merely making the website bigger wasn’t the right solution. The company needed a website that would work well both on large screens and on old small screens. This was a problem that could absolutely be solved by a responsive design.

Instead of focusing on phones and small screens, I explained to the client that a responsive design would enable us to effectively present a layout for today’s large desktop screens and also reflow to accommodate laptops and old desktop monitors that don’t have a high resolution.

As we demonstrated a responsive website for the client using a large desktop screen and a much smaller laptop, they got excited and told us that they had hated the “smallness” of the website for years, but their previous designer explained to them that, to support visitors with old computers, they had no choice but to design for this “lowest common denominator.”

Responsive design would solve this problem, and by this point our client was pretty much on board because they saw that it solved a problem they had (the “smallness” of the website), without addressing a problem that they didn’t think needed to be solved (support for mobile devices).

Build For The Future, Not Only The Present

When I discuss responsive Web design with my clients, I rarely use the term “mobile support” because it makes those clients think only of phones or, perhaps, tablets. I instead prefer the phrase “multi-device support,” which better encompasses the wide range of devices and screen sizes we are really designing and developing for these days.

One of the advantages of responsive design is that it doesn’t focus merely on the devices and screen sizes out there today. Because a responsive website reflows to fit a screen of any size, with an experience and a layout suited to each, the approach is very future-friendly. The prospect of having a website that continues to work well into the future, even as new devices and screen sizes come to market, appealed to our client. We further explained that, even if the website didn’t draw a lot of mobile visitors today, it might in the future. A responsive approach would ensure that those mobile visitors get an experience optimized for them.

The client remained skeptical that they would ever attract mobile visitors, but they were sold on responsive design because of the other problems it would solve. Additionally, because we were rebuilding the website anyway, making it responsive at the same time made financial sense. Trying to strap responsiveness onto an existing non-responsive website can be daunting and expensive, whereas incorporating responsiveness early on in the design process is much easier, especially if it is a core part of your process and you’ve developed a workflow for it, which we have. That workflow helped us to make this approach both technically and financially viable for our client.

Moving forward with the project, we knew that we would have to keep an eye on traffic once the website went live to prove our theory about the lack of mobile traffic.

Future tunnel5
Looking to the future will help us to build websites that work well even as new devices and screen sizes come to market. (Image: Joe Penniston6)

Break The Cycle

Two percent of traffic from mobile devices is so low a figure that, when I first saw it, I questioned its accuracy.

This particular company does not market or sell to the general public. It is a B2B company that works with a relatively small group of distributors and contractors from a defined geographic area. The client attributed the low mobile traffic to this demographic, which would access the website from an office desk, not on the road with a phone.

I agreed that mobile figures would likely be lower for this demographic than for a typical audience (for the websites we manage, 30% of traffic comes from mobile visitors, although some websites get over 50%) — but not this low. I felt that something else was happening here, and my gut told me that part of the reason was that the website worked so poorly on mobile devices. I suspected that the lack of a mobile experience kept mobile visitors away.

I did not share this theory with the client at the time, but in the year since the new design went live, the mobile traffic figures have climbed, from 2 to 17%. Granted, that is still lower than what many other websites get these days, but it is a sizeable jump and cannot be ignored.

The only reason we can point to for this jump is the website’s responsiveness. Neither the demographic nor the market has changed. The only difference is in how the website works on mobile devices. The improved experience has increased traffic. This was one of the reasons why I pushed for responsiveness, even when the traffic figures suggested otherwise.

Solving Problems

Part of our job as Web professionals is to solve problems for our clients. But we have to solve not only the problems that the client tells us about, but the ones that they do not even know they have.

All problems are opportunities in disguise7
Our clients’ problems are opportunities for us to provide high-quality solutions based on our experience and expertise. (Image: Donna Grayson8)

With the redesign of the website, our team was able to solve a number of problems that the client brought to our attention, including the outdated design and the absence of a CMS. And our solution to the problem that they weren’t aware of — a lack of mobile visitors due to a lack of support — validated our responsive approach, even when the traffic figures did not show the need for it. We knew that a responsive design would fix the layout on large desktop screens as well as on small old monitors, but would also help turn around the website’s unusually low traffic from mobile visitors, and we were proven correct.

We knew that part of the rise from 2 to 17% could be attributed to existing customers who had been sticking to a desktop computer out of obligation but were now switching to a mobile device. Those users are now able to access the website’s content on their preferred device, confident that they will get an experience suited to the device.

Another reason for the increased mobile traffic is undoubtedly new business. The movie Field of Dreams is instructive here: “If you build it, they will come.” If a website does not support mobile devices, then a mobile visitor will likely leave immediately upon noticing it, never to return. This was part of the reason for the low numbers. But the website no longer turns mobile users away, and the users in turn will not leave as soon as they arrive. Rather, they will find the information they are looking for and might visit again or point other people in their organization to the content. Mobile support encourages mobile use.

By addressing the customers’ problems, including ones that the client was not aware of, we were able to sell a responsive approach. The improved experience has boosted the mobile audience, as well as boosted the leads that the company is getting from the website.

In Summary

Selling a responsive design is no different than selling anything else. It all starts with solving problems.

For this project, we highlighted the benefits of a responsive approach beyond the familiar benefit of support for mobile devices that we normally mention to prospective clients. Here are some of the key points we made in discussing the value of a responsive approach for a website without an obvious need for mobile support:

  • We would be supporting a variety of screen sizes that aren’t typically considered when discussing responsive design, including large new desktop monitors with very high resolutions and old small screens with correspondingly low resolutions.
  • The website would scale into the future as new devices and screen sizes come to market and as mobile users begin to visit.
  • We would save time, money and technical complexity by doing this work now, as part of the redesign process, rather than trying to cram it in later when the website is set.

(al, il)

Footnotes

  1. 1 http://www.flickr.com/photos/emmacherry/2207748365/sizes/z/in/photostream/
  2. 2 http://www.flickr.com/photos/emmacherry/2207748365/sizes/z/in/photostream/
  3. 3 http://www.flickr.com/photos/flippoker/6679770607/sizes/z/in/photostream/
  4. 4 http://www.flickr.com/photos/flippoker/6679770607/sizes/z/in/photostream/
  5. 5 http://www.flickr.com/photos/expressmonorail/3470644819/sizes/z/in/photostream/
  6. 6 http://www.flickr.com/photos/expressmonorail/3470644819/sizes/z/in/photostream/
  7. 7 http://www.flickr.com/photos/donnagrayson/195244498/sizes/z/in/photostream/
  8. 8 http://www.flickr.com/photos/donnagrayson/195244498/sizes/z/in/photostream/

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Jeremy was born with six toes on each foot. The extra toes were removed before he was a year old, robbing him of any super-powers and ending his crime-fighting career before it even began. Unable to battle the forces of evil, he instead works as the Director of Web Development for the Providence, Rhode Island based Envision Technology Advisors and teaches website design at the University of Rhode Island. His portfolio and blog, at Pumpkin-King.com, is where he writes about all things Web design.

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  1. 1

    Nice article. I checked out your website, and noticed a small issue: http://www.pumpkin-king.com/elsewhere

    The grid falls apart when an item height is larger than the others on the same row. Might want to wrap every three items in a div to fix this.

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    • 2

      oh you are right! May be a Masonry system would do the trick!

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    • 3

      Thanks for the heads up. I didn’t want to add the extra ‘divs’ around each row, especially because the grid changes for different screen sizes, but I appreciate the heads up that a few adjustments needed to be made.

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      • 4

        Masonry would do the trick, but you lose some of the hierarchical value.

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        • 5

          Why not use an inline-block method, removing the float and adding in the align-top fix for IE. This will therefor make the elements still stack but just with a little bit more spacing below!

          Let me know if you need an example!

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      • 7

        count the DIVs and after every 3rd DIV add a clearing DIV.

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  2. 8

    Article is spot on. “Build for the future” is a very valid and strong point.

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  3. 9

    I agree with your POV on selling it in and applaud your look into the data to take action, but your analysis on the 15% increase of mobile traffic is a bit of a leap of faith.

    There are more precise ways to determine the success of a responsive design project. It’s important to work with an analyst to set these measurements up front. Metrics that come to mind are:

    Returning visits on mobile
    Mobile calls to action conversions
    Visits broken out by tablets and mobiles
    Engagement metrics broken down by screen resolution.

    These types of metric tell the true, (and likely), story of a successful transition to responsive design.

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    • 10

      These are all excellent points, and while I do not have all of these stats in front of me, it is absolutely something I am looking into now. Thanks for the suggestions.

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  4. 11

    Nice post! This will be very helpful. Thanks!

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  5. 12

    I don’t think I am the only one, but my point of view is that every modern site should be a clean flexible viewing experience for any size screen as standard.

    I don’t charge my clients to make their site responsive, I do it as a standard build. The way the web is viewed now, I really don’t believe something as important as usability is a chargeable item.

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    • 13

      I agree that usability across any screen size should be standard and responsive design is a core part of the work we do as well – but it is also something that raises the amount of work a project takes and the cost associated with that project.

      When speaking with a client about the cost of a new site, they very often ask to go through those costs on an individual, line-by-line basis to make sure that they need everything being proposed. Price is always a factor and I’ve yet to meet the client that didn’t want to understand the costs to see if there were any savings to be found.

      In this case, when we got to the topic of responsive design, which is part of our standard development process, they questioned whether they needed that feature and, if removing it, would decrease the overall project price. This is why, even though multi-device support is part of our standard engagement, we still had to have this discussion. Had we just said “it’s part of the standard build” and left it at that, with no additional explanation offered, I believe we would’ve lost this project and the client would’ve found someone else to build the site non-responsive, thereby robbing them of the benefits they eventual enjoyed because of that approach.

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    • 14

      This entirely depends on the complexity of the website.
      If it’s not much more than an article/news based site, sure, going responsive is easy.

      If it’s leaning more toward a web application, with complex forms, widgets and layouts you’d soon be out of business if you weren’t taking this complexity into consideration when quoting for a responsive build.

      Responsive can double or even triple the build time, depending on whether or not you’ve fleshed out re-usable frameworks – basically, how bespoke is the build?

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      • 15

        RWD is a fluid grid, flexible media and media queries. That is technically what it is. But in reality it’s a philosophy, it’s an approach to design & to development (and to the web in our case) in general. What it’s not is an add-on that “doubles or triples” development time. It might extend certain aspects of the process but it can also save time.

        For example, if working with a forward thinking client (they do exist) you can potentially cut down design time by producing mood boards and designing mockups directly in the browser, which will cut out some development time, instead of revising and exporting comps 20 different times trying to get a pixel-perfect mockup approved that will end up not looking the same in the browser any way and cause further delays down the road.

        Truly Responsive people/agencies will be responsive throughout the process rather than tack this on as a feature.

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    • 16

      I understand your point but with responsive design comming the prices are increasing. It is logical step I think. It takes more time to build it than “normal” website. You can call responsive design as a standard but this standard is more expensive now.

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      • 17

        This is really no different than how we have dealt with website pricing in the past, long before responsive. If someone asked, “how much does a website cost?”, the answer would be that it depends on the website and the scope of work needed for that particular project. Responsive is no different. Adding responsive to a simple, small site may only be a little extra work, while adding it to a very complex site will be much more work and you need to price that out accordingly the way you would with any other aspect of the project, whether it is “standard” or “optional”.

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      • 18

        I find it difficult to agree that it’s more expensive to build a responsive site. I’ve been building responsive for more than 12 months and I have my own templates for the skeletons and I can actually build a responsive site faster than a standard HTML site.

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        • 19

          To Matthew’s earlier point, if the site has a number of complex forms or other kinds of dense content – like a real estate site with individual listings pages with lots of images, data, etc., then that is going to take some extra time. I don’t agree that it is “double or even triple” the time as Matthew stated, but it is definitely more work than just laying that content out for large screen displays.

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  6. 20

    What ever you do, DON’T point out that HealthCare.gov is a responsive site (Bootstrap 2.3.2) as an example. You may as well shoot yourself in the foot if you do :)

    I think it’s cool they took that approach, but clients would never be able to disconnect the performance issues with the design.

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    • 21

      Having a handful of responsive examples to show, whether they are ones you worked on or others that you think are particularly compelling and worth looking at, is a good idea – and making sure that the examples you use do not have otherwise negative associations attached to them, like your Healthcare.gov example, is also important. This could also included sites that may work well, but may spark strong feelings about the content of the site rather than the functionality of it. Some examples I would avoid would be political sites or those dealing with hot-button issues.

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  7. 22

    This insightful article helped fix my misconception that responsive web design is meant for phones only. After going through this blog I am now pretty sure that responsive web design has a lot more potential. I particularly like the point called ‘build for the future’ as it made me understand what ‘multi-device support’ actually means. It is a great article on responsive web design. Highly appreciated!
    - Web designer at Sova Infotech

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  8. 23

    Thank you for the nice article.
    Though one question occurred. You are considering only the responsive design as an option to appeal to mobile uses.
    Apart from the fact, that indeed this is a trend to have a fully responsive website, it is also possible to have both a desktop and mobile version of a website. In this way the needs of the mobile users could be addressed better – special content, structure, lower image resolution etc. So what would be your recommendation if have to choose between these two?

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    • 24

      That is a question that has sparked quite a bit of (often passionate) debate over the years. There are arguments to be made for a separate, mobile-only site and there are those to be made for one website with a responsive approach, but my personal opinion is that responsive is the way to go. I am sure there are instances where a separate mobile site is a better solution, but for the work that I do and the clients I speak with, I really don’t encounter those instances.

      You mention having special content on a separate, mobile only site. That is one of the reasons I don’t like this approach. Forgot about being a website designer, as a website USER, I hate it when a mobile site only includes a portion of the site’s normal content, because the content that has been “left off” the mobile site is often what I am looking for! Having one site that has content parity across all versions, including those that fall outside of the desktop screens vs. mobile phones extreme cases, is what I expect from a website. Same content, different layout and presentation. That is one of the reasons I find responsive more appropriate for the needs of my clients.

      The other issues you raise, like lower image resolution or different structure, can still be achieved with a responsive approach. There are a number of article on responsive images here on Smashing and my previous article on “Building a Better Responsive Website” provides a look at some of the methods my organization used on our own site to address those issues – http://mobile.smashingmagazine.com/2013/03/05/building-a-better-responsive-website/

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  9. 25

    Can anyone point me to some eCommerce sites to use for examples. Most responsive sites that I know of are news related or just informative.

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  10. 28

    I also wrote about this recently. I found that clients want to know what they’re going to be getting at the end. This is something which I like to say to them during that conversation:

    “RWD is an approach that allows your site to be consumed on any number of current devices as well as any future device releases, it’s a design once deliver everywhere approach. As part of this project we will deliver across 3 major breakpoints (small, medium, large) and test against the following devices (add devices you are testing on here) ”

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  11. 29

    Hmm, never heard a client say mobile users dont visit their site? In fact all they say is they want more visitors.

    Accessibility used to be a big deal, now it seems RWD is. Just make sure you let your mobile users pinch and zoom. If you take that away from them, then your site is less accessible to those users who need it.

    As for ‘selling’ it to clients.. if you have to ‘sell it’, then they probably dont need it. Its probably not obvious enough. Designers and developers shouldnt be anywhere enar the word ‘sell’.

    A lot of users and clients like to have a continuous experience. RWD does not allow for this.

    If for example, you visit a site at work, navigate to a specific item or story and want to get back to it on your phone. With RWD you have to spend time figuring out where it is. It looks totally different.

    By making use of the phones browser, the user is actually already comfortable with your site. There is no learning. Having more than one experience, is confusing.

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    • 30

      Gavin – I don’t agree that designers and developers should not be anywhere near the word “sell”. In many smaller organizations, the same people that are designing or developing may also be working on business development, which means they are selling.

      Even in larger organizations, “selling” isn’t only relegated to salespeople because listening to a client’s problems and offering solutions is a form of selling. That is something that designers and developers do all the time, even if they don’t have the title of “salesperson”.

      Saying that “if you have to sell it, they probably don’t need it” sounds very shortsighted to me. Most of the clients I deal with don’t know what they need. The reason they hire a web professional is so they their issues can be evaluated and solutions for those issues recommended. Most of the time, you need to explain what those solutions are and what the benefit to their organization will be before they will commit to the project. That is “selling it”.

      Your comment about visiting a site at work and then accessing it your phone later is one of the main values of RWD – content parity. Yes, the way that content is presented is different on the phone than on the desktop screen because the size of those screen vary, but a well done responsive site shouldn’t require a user to “figure out where it is”. That is more often a problem found with “mobile-only” sites that pare down the content and oftentimes leave content that you are search for off the presentation entirely, leaving you digging for content that is nowhere to be found.

      Thanks for your comments, I just can’t say I agree with any of it. Having a desktop layout pushed to my phone so “there is no learning” and having to “pinch and zoom” is an awful experience on a mobile device. I will gladly trade the 5 seconds it takes to reorient myself to the small-screen layout of a RWD site instead of the painful experience of pinching and zooming to try to read content laid out for a screen size other than the one I am using a that moment.

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      • 31

        Thanks for the reply.
        Removing pinch and zoom isolates those users that rely in it.

        I agree with a lot of what you say, but your use of the word ‘selling’ here implies that the customer already has a negative idea about the subject OR that you want to charge more for it and therefore when the customer asks why, you have to sell it.

        To me, that is the wrong approach.

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        • 32

          Pinch and zoom is only necessary, and people only rely on it, when the content of the screen needs to be zoomed in on to read. If the layout is suited to the screen size, I can’t see why there would be a need to pinch and zoom.

          I don’t think there is a immediate negative connotation to “selling”. If I go to a restaurant and ask the waiter or waitress what they suggest, they will make some recommendations. They may ask me questions like, “do you eat seafood?”, to make sure the recommendations they make will work for my tastes, but in the end, they are trying to sell me something. I don’t immediately have a negative idea about what they are selling me, I am legitimately asking for their advice because they know the menu. To me, this scenario is not all that different than discussing websites with clients. We ask them what their needs are and using our experience (ie: our understanding of the menu) we make recommendations.

          You can call this “consulting” or whatever term you feel is best, but it’s really just another way of saying “selling” – and that is not a bad thing. Pairing a client up with a solution that helps meet their needs is our job, whether you call that “selling” or something else.

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  12. 33

    It’s funny how Apple, one of the largest mobile phone sellers/makers, does not use responsive web design. Granted they do have supporting Apps.

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  13. 34

    Have to agree with Jeremy that developers and designers, especially freelancers, need to be cognizant of what their prospective clients are thinking, and to proactively address that (e.g. “selling”). That is key for first-time clients in particular.
    That said, the big win is establishing an ongoing relationship to the point where that client inherently trusts your instincts and recommendations (within reason, of course). That is what you want to build towards, then you won’t have to worry so much about the ‘selling’ aspect.

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  14. 35

    It’s funny how Apple, one of the largest mobile phone sellers/makers, does not use responsive web design. Granted they do have supporting Apps. intrsting
    :P :P :P :P

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  15. 36

    Great insight and experience.
    It’s an awesome talking point regarding responsiveness.

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  16. 37

    Christian Griffith

    November 5, 2013 3:27 pm

    Great article! These points will be really helpful in articulating the need to support as many devices as possible. My personal belief is that, at this point, every website being built should be “responsive.” Maybe charging a little more per hour and make “responsive” development a part of the overall development, rather than an added feature, would keep us from having to even pitch it to clients?

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  17. 38

    You didn’t mention SEO, but it’s extremely important for eCommerce clients. RWD is the best option for SEO, as pointed out by Google themselves where they recommend RWD for building sites that perform well in Google’s search results: http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2012/06/recommendations-for-building-smartphone.html

    When working with my last client, whose business depends heavily on SEO, this was a powerful argument to get them to select RWD over other mobile strategies.

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  18. 39

    Just want to weigh in on the SEO value for a good Responsive site.

    1) It is, in most cases, a superior user experience that impacts time on site and conversion regardless if conversion is a sale or simply lead capture.

    2) It can improve time on site, especially for users who are growing accustomed to a robust mobile or tablet experience and ‘bounce’ quickly if they don’t like the interface they are given right off the bat.

    I can say from experience that my clients who have a responsive template, and are actively creating great content (not good…great) are doing very, very well in search results without an ounce of manual link creation and very limited outreach.

    Really good article by the way, I always appreciate meaningful stats!

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  19. 40

    Great and relevant article!

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  20. 41

    Responsiveness has no future in the form it is presented today. It is a wicked problem.
    How would you sell responsive if:
    - Search engines (Google) require that your displayed images should fit the size on disk / images on the screen should not be narrowed by CSS
    -> it means you need your screen images to fit server image size
    - If you want to deliver the best visual/design experience to users, you need your images to fit your regions/blocks/sidebars/divs (desired content)
    -> it means you need images to be sometimes smaller than size on disk
    These two things collide!
    Satisfying Google is in the best of your client. Step away from that and you’re not going to be a SEO winner, affecting, one way or another, your SERPs. Satisfying website’s users is AGAIN, your customer’s goal. But this would probably play against search engines’ optimization rules.

    How would you promote an unstable, paradoxical solution to your client? Serve SEO or serve user experience?

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    • 42

      I’m sorry – I’m not really sure what your argument is here? It sounds like you are offering a hypothetical about what would happen if Google decided to rank sites based on how the images fit?

      I will say this – your comment that “satisfying Google is best for your client” is not one I agree with. Google doesn’t buy my clients services, their customers do. The “best for my client” is to satisfy their users. That being said, I have found time and time again that when you satisfy people, the search engine’s seem to like that too.

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      • 43

        Google’s algorithm is rather complex and rankings are made based on that. According to Google’s page speed rules, serving scaled images isn’t good, and there’s an exclamation point for every page you use CSS to scale them. Of course rankings are based on these factors and this is one that we need to consider!
        How would you know Google likes it if it tells you loud and clear “do not serve scaled images” and you do?
        I’m not saying your rankings depend only on that, but it is, definitely, a factor. Why isn’t there a standard? We should just guess “when and how” we could serve scaled images? Because Google only SEEM to like it. But that’s not a “de facto” argument. It is only something that you “guess” it will be right, then sell your “guess” to your client.

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        • 44

          It sounds like you are referring to the practice of serving very large images to all devices because we have to use the largest size we will possibly need and scale it down from there. Is that what you are getting at? If so, i agree that this is a concern and there have been a number of articles written here on Smashing about responsive images. It is something the community is actively working on solving.

          My larger concern with your comments is that it seems like SEO is your primary concern? I agree that rankings are something that must be considered, but not at the expense of a quality user experience, regardless of the device they are using.

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  21. 45

    Responsive Web Design impacts conversion! We see alot of website traffic is now coming in from mobile devices such as tablets and phones. Many of our clients already have a strong understanding of how important responsive design is when they come to us so selling the idea is not really necessary.

    Alex
    Isadora Design – Handcrafted Web Design Company

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  22. 46

    The big issue was never stated in this article. Google & Google Mobile are two separate search engines. Google separated them in 2012. Google Mobile prefers to bring mobile sites to the top. Since your client was not mobilized, G/M will most likely not bring him in on mobile search results or at least a few pages back. This is why your client was only getting 2%, nobody can find him on G/M. Then and the fact that a way higher percentage of mobile users vs. desktop don’t go beyond page one of the search results… and that is how you sell it!

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  23. 47

    I guess nowadays clients do their homework before approaching any agency. They themselves come up with all the requirements.

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  24. 48

    A good website for responsive designs http://www.visitresponsivewebsites.com … hope this helps…

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  25. 49

    Thanks for sharing. Few good collection of Responsive Designs @ http://visitresponsivewebsites.com/

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  26. 50

    Brilliant! Thanks for sharing!

    We wrote our own version of how to pitch responsive design to clients. Please do take a look if you’d like to see how we handle it.
    http://www.psdtoresponsivehtml5.com/pitching-responsive-design-clients-right-way/

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  27. 51

    It is nice post and taught us not to sell the product to those who doesn’t required as well not focus on only present but also focus on future, so we must need a clear vision for our business and product.

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