Technology July 9, 2015 Last updated September 18th, 2018 1,867 Reads share

Designing for Mobile? Should I Choose RESS, AWD or RWD!

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Given the fact that there is a high proliferation of mobile devices in the market, it seems that everybody is going mobile and wants to access the Internet on their mobile devices. This trend is being increasingly followed by organizations, which have woken up to the fact that they need to invest heavily in web design for multiple devices.

Today, given the level of device fragmentation, the number of screen resolutions, device sizes, and the various types of browsers that exist in the market, high levels of confusion exist in the minds of decision makers. They are confused whether they should invest in responsive web design (RWD) responsive web design with server side components, (RESS), or something like Adaptive Web Design (AWD) that lies somewhat in between.

Let us take a few minutes off from our busy schedule to examine which technology will suit the present needs of most organizations, who wish to tap the consumers’ interest in the web for organizational profitability and business success.

Designing for Mobile? Should I Choose RESS, AWD or RWD!

Responsive Web Design

RWD was first coined by Ethan Markotte in his article Responsive Web Design, in May 2010. In what was one of the pioneering articles of web development, he built upon the concept initially stated by John Allsopp, that websites could work across all devices if they follow the pattern of a fluid grid, responsive images, videos, as well as the use of CSS media queries, so that the layout could be adjusted depending upon the screen size.

A combination of fluid grids as well as images with media queries, responsive web design is used to change layout that is based on the size of a device viewport. RWD uses feature detection that determines the available device capabilities and therefore adapt in accordance to that particular device. Actually, RWD has created a big revolution in the web world. RWD helps technical experts create flexible websites that can adjust to all types of screen resolutions.

As explained here, sites with responsive web design are very flexible. The content, as well as other elements of the website, can be easily adjusted to every screen size, thereby providing the best possible user experience. The images and grids of such websites are fluid; hence they can be adjusted to almost every screen size.

This means they can be viewed easily on mobiles as well as tablets. A recent survey points out to the fact that 40% of the online users are accustomed to browsing their sites on their tablets and mobiles. A suitable response to this demand is RWD. RWD also provides an enhanced offline browsing experience as the HTML5 offline browsing capability of responsive websites allows easy access to the offline page in one go.

With RWD, you do not need an additional mobile friendly website as this trend is now outdated. One RWD website is sufficient to operate on the World Wide Web, which can be viewed both on desktops and mobile browsers without any difficulty.

Google actually recommends mobile friendly RWD websites which is a good way to prevent duplicate content (Mobile website + desktop website). Such a website actually helps promote your SEO efforts and make your campaign successful.

Finally, with an RWD website, you can save a lot of time and money, as there is just one website for you to focus on. RWD simplifies site management, unlike having two different websites – mobile website and desktop website; you need to maintain just one website.

RESS: (Responsive Web Design with Server Side Components)

First coined by Luke Wroblewski in his article RESS: Responsive Design + Server Side Components, RESS combines responsive web design with server side component and this optimization is a way to extend client-side solutions.

As part of this technique, a single set of templates define an entire website for all websites. However, key components within that website have specific implementations according to the device class, which are rendered server side. Hence, this optimization only requires device detection at a component level.

In RESS, the server essential makes the choices which components to serve to the client. However, in RWD, users get all the components and assets, regardless of the need for their device. With RESS, users get only what they need for their device and it’s all about reducing the deliverables, and therefore improving bandwidth, download times, and rendering times.

AWD – Adaptive Web Design

AWD was first coined by Aaron Gustafson, in his book Adaptive Web Design: Crafting Rich Experiences with Progressive Enhancement.

In AWD, one can picture a situation in which a server side process decides what components as well as assets need to be sent to the device, based on what device is being used. It is also called progressive enhancement of a website, and encompasses several techniques and is an advanced design philosophy that can be achieved via server side user agent detection or client side RWD.

Therefore, a desktop browser might get an interactive map but not a call us type of component, whereas the server might not decide to send an interactive map to a smaller mobile device, but a link, thereby enabling the navigation system of the device to find out the address itself.

So what should be used – RWD, AWD, or RESS?

Its best to use whatever technology is best for your project. With most web development work, there is no right or wrong answer. There may be gray areas, but there are always opportunities to choose. Hence, if your website can work wonderfully via RWD, there is no need to incorporate server side components, but if your project needs fancy components and modules on the desktop, you might need alternative technologies such as AWD or RESS to get along with.

Hence, you could leave out that just one component with is bothering you or try and hide it for devices that don’t matter much, or finally fetch it via Ajax, if you need to. As a developer, you are in the driving seat, so do what you want and take the right decision. Thus, whether you want to implement RWD, RESS, or AWD, purely depend upon the technical scalability of your project, rather than your personal inclination!

Images: “SEO web development concept: hand holding smartphone with word Website on display. Mobile smart phone on White background, 3d render/


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Kathy Kim

Kathy Kim

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