The App Is Dead: Long Live Responsive Design

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ADOTAS – The following story is fictional, even if the statistics are real, and obviously does not depict any actual person or events.

Oh, hey there! Hold on! It’s been so long since I’ve seen a fleshy digit such as yours. Sorry, wait — no, come back! I didn’t mean to offend you. My name is Cheek Smudge. I’m an app that my owner downloaded three years ago. Basically, I’m a free game where you see how long you can hold your cheek to the screen of the iPhone. Don’t look at me like that — I’m a blast! We had some good times for the first month of our relationship, but it’s been pretty much downhill ever since. There was this one time that we hit the 10-minute mark, and I was so proud. It didn’t matter that it was due to a late night at the bar and falling asleep while trying to drunk dial — we were breaking records! I’ve been trying to find some research ever since ’09 that shows that our relationship will improve, but I’ve come up with bupkis.

It gets pretty lonely here on Page 8 of this lovely iPhone. I’m talking Kevin Arnold on The Wonder Years lonely. You know, way back in the first season, when he hadn’t won the heart of Winnie Cooper yet? I pass my days remembering the good times and reading the  occasional issue of Fingerprint. Just for the articles, of course.

Can you blame me, though? I’m basically counting my days until the end. It’s only a matter of time, now that responsive design has rolled into town. It’s a threat! Don’t look at me like that — I’m not one of those paranoid people like Frank Chu, or somebody holding a picket sign and hanging around outside a TOOL concert and saying that you’re going to the place downstairs. I’m serious! Responsive design means death to us apps. You don’t believe me? Well, let’s review some facts I’ve gathered, shall we?

According to Nielsen, the smartphone penetration in the U.S. is now over 50 percent. Long gone are the days when you could whip out a flip phone and look cool. This means today’s average ‘Merican is getting more sophisticated. Responsive design recognizes this and provides a consistent user experience, regardless of whether the person is accessing the site from a laptop, a tablet or a smartphone. Users don’t have to waste time trying to figure out a mobile-specific or app version of a website. They can just navigate to their favorite sites, and they’re off to the races.

This brings me to the next point. With responsive design, all the site content is on one URL. This not only helps from an SEO perspective, since all traffic points to one place, but also from a development perspective. I’ve heard about some cousins of mine that were living on Android and also some distant relatives that resided on some place called Windows Phone. With RD, brands don’t need to worry about these different versions. One round of development and you’re good to go. The thought sends shivers
down my site map. And don’t even get me started about the cost savings related to maintenance and content refreshes.

With RD, the experience can be customized to the environment as well. This is a point that a lot of my fellow apps miss. They tell me that responsive design is just the same exact experience across devices. “Not true!,” I scream as I shake my imaginary fist at the sky. You can even hide content from the laptop version that isn’t relevant to the smartphone experience. This can be especially helpful in moving users through a desired process. Check out the Oracle timeline for an example.

Finally, the responsive design approach is mapping more to users’ preference and behaviors. In a recent Zmags study, they found that 87 percent of respondents preferred the shopping experience on websites of mobile sites, compared to 4 percent for tablet/mobile apps. Users don’t want a dumbed-down experience when on a mobile device — they want the full experience. I don’t see users regressing anytime soon (unless that virus from I Am Legend starts going around), so the movement away from apps is bound to continue.

There is some hope in the short term, though. I’ve heard that 90 percent of websites are not ready for mobile use, so hopefully it’ll take a while for brands to do anything about it. In the meantime, I will continue my slow descent into hardcore phalangophilia and hoping for some pointer visits. Pray for me!

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