Which One: Responsive Design, Device Experiences, or RESS?

by Luke Wroblewski February 28, 2012

As more organizations realize they need to invest heavily in multi-device Web designs, the inevitable question of “how” comes up. Responsive Web design, separate sites, or something in between? Here’s how I’ve tried to simplify this decision:

Responsive Web design

Responsive Web Design

Responsive Web design is a combination of fluid grids and images with media queries to change layout based on the size of a device viewport. It uses feature detection (mostly on the client) to determine available device capabilities and adapt accordingly.

With responsive Web design one code-base, deployment, and URL provides you with access to many devices including future ones you haven’t encountered yet. But optimizing images, video, third party widgets and more using client-only solutions can be challenging.

Responsive Web design is for you IF:

  • If you want layout adjustments across devices.
  • You can live without complete optimization for specific devices.
  • You don’t have access to server-side solutions.
  • You really don’t trust device detection.

Further Information:

Device Experiences

Device Experiences

A device experience is defined by how a device is most commonly used and the technical capabilities or limitations it possesses. Device experiences are a way to classify the troves of connected devices available to consumers today so you can build and design separate and appropriate interfaces for each.

Device experiences require a unique set of front-end designs and development for each class of device you want to support. Delivering the right experience to the right device requires some level of device detection (usually server-side). However, each experience can be completely optimized. In other words, you send every client only what it needs and nothing more.

Device Experiences are for you IF:

  • You want maximum optimization for each type of device.
  • And the ability to serve completely different user experience & features to each class of device.
  • You’re comfortable with device detection.

Further Information:

RESS: Responsive Web Design with Server Side Components

RESS: Responsive Web Design with Server Side Components

Combining responsive Web design with server side component (not full page) optimization is a way to extend client-side only solutions. With this technique, a single set of templates define an entire Web site for all devices but key components within that site have device-class specific implementations that are rendered server side.

In other words, RESS (Responsive Web Design with Server Side Components) can deliver the best of both worlds without the challenges that can hamper each. That is one code-base, deployment, and URL that only delivers what each client needs. This optimization only requires device detection at a component level.

RESS is for you IF:

  • If you want layout adjustments across devices.
  • And optimization at the component level to increase performance or tune user experience.
  • You trust server-side device detection with sensible defaults.

Further Information: