With the rapid growth of mobile traffic, implementation of a Responsive Web Design (RWD) approach for our clients’ existing websites is a regular question. Redesign of a website is a large undertaking; reason enough for some to put off a redesign. But how long can you afford to provide an unfriendly experience for your non-desktop users?

Brad Frost, in his recent article details 4 different approaches to deploying a RWD website:

Responsive Retrofitting

Responsive retrofitting is the concept of taking an existing desktop site and creating a separate style sheet for mobile devices. One website, one address, but a separate stylesheet to control layout. The user is delivered a website that formats nicely for the device they’re on, but the content and thought process that would deliver optimum content for the non-desktop user has not been employed.

Responsive Mobile Sites

With a Responsive mobile site, a separate mobile site can be deployed which is a site specifically designed for the mobile user. Mobile content and layout are optimized, but the end result are two websites to be maintained. However, over time, the mobile site can evolve into a complete responsive site for all devices.

Mobile-First Responsive Design

Mobile-first responsive design takes the approach that the greatest amount of traffic to a website is or will be the mobile user. Consequently the development and design for the website must begin with a layout and content for the mobile user. Layout and content will expand from there for users on larger screen devices. This is the most time intensive approach for the implementing a responsive design, but it essentially future proofs your website.


Frost describes Piecemeal as a “responsive strategy [that] breaks a large-scale redesign down into bite sized chunks.” Perhaps similar to a Responsive retrofitting approach, however piecemeal looks at a large website and addresses specific sections of an existing site which are redesigned with a responsive approach. Perhaps a full scale redesign is not doable because of time and / or budget constraints, but critical areas of a website can be redesigned with a responsive approach.

So if you’re concerned about your non-desktop users having an optimum experience when visiting your website, consider these four options. Deploying a user friendly website experience for your mobile users does not have to mean completely redesigning your website.