Talking of Design

The business of responsive web design


As web designers and developers, we’ve been aware as to the meaning and methods of responsive web design for quite a while. It’s become mainstream, with a number of high profile brands adopting the method for their own websites (Disney, Microsoft, Starbucks, to name but a few).

That said, I’m of the opinion that responsive web design still isn’t a house-hold name just yet — and I mean this in terms of the client side of the fence.

With this is mind, I feel it is more important than ever to make very clear the details of what you will be providing when quoting for web design projects, even to the point of quantifying separately the time and cost of the responsive considerations of the project — at least to some degree …

Now, there are many championing the fact that web design is responsive design — and in many respects I agree with this thinking. And so it would only make sense to include all costs and time in the one place when quoting. Responsive design isn’t a desktop website that can be converted to adapt to tablet / mobile resolution, so surely to separate costs as if it is an optional add-on is wrong? Well I’m not too sure. Eventually yes. But not when considering the here and now of things.

Apples with apples

The problem is that responsive web design takes more time to implement than our older methods of desktop only fixed / liquid designs. It takes more time at planning and design stage, and more time at the coding stage. And this means more cost for your client.

In the present climate — where many clients still aren’t aware of the meaning and implications of responsive design — if you aren’t clear on the details in your proposals you could run the risk of losing out on a project.

Why? Because a client could look at your proposal, look at a proposal from another provider (not offering a responsive solution), and — if things aren’t clear — could conclude that the two proposals are equivalent, with one merely cheaper than another. They may not realise that they aren’t comparing apples with apples.

What to do?

I would suggest the following:

  • Include in your correspondence to your client a few paragraphs defining responsive web design
  • Include examples from your own work, and perhaps some larger brand examples (like those mentioned above) to help convince the client that responsive design is the way forward
  • Include statistics on device use and the growth of the mobile web
  • Segment the deliverables in your proposal so that the client can clearly see the cost of the approach

That last point is tricky. Once again, it’s important you don’t show responsive design as being an add-on”, but at the same time I do feel it needs quantifying so clients can understand and make informed decisions.

A way of doing this is to perhaps:

  • Come up with costs as though you are creating a desktop only solution
  • Come up with costs as if you were creating a responsive solution
  • Simply take the desktop-only figure from the responsive figure at each of the proposed steps, and include the resulting difference as either a separate item, or even as a note with the cost

For example: “£2,000.00 (of which £800.00 is for responsive layout and associated tasks)

If structured and worded correctly, this approach could make the difference between winning the work, or losing out to someone who, on paper, seems to be offering the same for cheaper, when in reality they are not.

Responsive web design — as a process — is a single start-to-finish way of designing and developing, but in our quotes and proposals, I feel it wise to construct some level of quantified itemisation. Whilst counter-intuitive to the responsive web design is web design” ethos, it might be the smart play in the short term for converting leads into contracted work.

Me, but elsewhere

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