When Should Nonprofit Websites Go Responsive? [link]

I follow a lot of blogs, and it’s always interesting when I see a common thread emerge from seemingly disparate sites. Recently, that common thread was “when should websites go responsive?”

To get everyone up to speed, here’s what I mean by “responsive.” “Responsive web design” is a set of techniques that optimizes the presentation of a single website at many sizes and, therefore, increases usability on a variety of devices including smart phones, tablets, phablets, ereaders, and more. People are increasingly accessing the web with their mobile devices and websites need to function in more contexts than ever.

If you need an example, pull up MRWweb.com and make your window narrower. You should find that this site is optimized for three different screen sizes:

So that’s “responsive” web design. It’s a technique for which best practices are still emerging. We’re all figuring this out together. Which brings us back to the articles I’m linking to…

With the rise of responsive design, people have been very eager to jump on the proverbial band-wagon. However, that may not be appropriate due to budget restrictions or actual visitor needs. When a nonprofit should ask for a responsive website? When a web designer should offer one?


This first post, a guest post by Heidi Massey on Beth Kanter‘s blog, asks when nonprofits should think about getting responsive websites:

…consider the goals that an organization is trying to achieve before determining the solution. There is always a shiny object in the world of technology. It is very easy to be distracted by the latest and greatest. But this can easily lead to utilizing resources in ways that are not necessary, and more important, perhaps do not provide the best solution.

Heidi also shares this emerging rule of thumb: nonprofits should wait until at least 20% of their visitors are on mobile or there’s a loud minority requesting a better mobile experience. I like that.

I do feel the need to add that I don’t think this passage from the post is accurate:

I would also add that organizations that are either building their first site or considering a rebuild of their site, should include responsive design. It doe [sic] not add significantly or even at all to the cost of the project and will avoid much more expensive changes later on.

Responsive websites are significantly cheaper than dedicated apps and work best when planned in parallel with the “full-size” size, but they do add to the project cost. Responsive design is cheap compared to building two or three separate sites, but it’s not free.

Read “How and When Should Your Nonprofit Organization Invest in Mobile” on BethKanter.com.


The second article comes from Smashing Magazine. Their point, though stated from a different perspective, is uncannily similar:

Are we cheating our clients when it comes to mobile? More precisely, are we allowing our desire for mobile work to get in the way of providing our clients with the best solution for their business needs?

Read “Giving Our Clients The Best Deal In Mobile” on Smashing Magazine.


If you want to avoid technical talk, you might skip the second article, but I really think both make for good, compatible thoughts on one idea from two perspectives. They also discuss the trade-offs between mobile apps and responsive sites. Like another recent blog post on this site, the focus of a project should always be assessing needs before jumping to solutions.

Talk Back

Is your website responsive? Was it worth it? If it’s not responsive, have you thought about when it will be?

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