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Responsive Design is Costing You Millions


Lately, there’s been a lot of talk about “Responsive Design,” a term first coined by Ethan Marcotte several years ago that refers to the approach of building a single website that will adapt (or respond) appropriately to multiple screen sizes or devices. This has taken the web development and design world by storm, and there are hundreds of blogs and books available about the process of designing and developing a responsive site.

However, I strongly believe that our general approach to responsive design has been fundamentally flawed. That’s because a fully responsive site might not be the highest converting site.

Conversive Design and Arrow

We can dive into our “mobile” strategies and try to come up with the latest and greatest design and development solutions across all devices, but we need to remember that conversion rate is king. After all, higher conversion rates mean that something is working.

I fear that if we all accept the potentially lazy theory that one responsive site is always the best approach, we may miss out on several key opportunities to optimize our conversion funnels. And ultimately, the conversion rate should be our key success metric for evaluating a successful user experience.


In order to gain a full understanding of audience behavior across multiple devices, you need to be testing, monitoring, and analyzing your traffic and usage patterns. The smaller scale of smartphones and tablets provides a unique opportunity to focus your conversion optimization tactics across these devices.

Now, don’t misunderstand me—the responsive design method is very sound. In fact, if it’s done properly, one could argue that a well-designed responsive site should, by its very nature, be a high converting site.

But what we want to be careful with is ignoring potential opportunities to really move that needle based on specific user behavior and preferences across multiple devices. If, for example, we are able to deduce through testing that a unique site experience offered on an iPhone increases conversions by a remarkable number, then it may be well worth our efforts to invest in developing that unique experience. This is one of those areas where designers, developers and marketers have an opportunity to live happily ever after.


The best solution for designing and developing across all devices should incorporate the strong principles of responsive design, as well as the bottom-line, business fundamentals of conversion optimization. Let’s call this approach “Conversive Design,” which I’ll define as “the practice of designing web pages and interfaces that have been tested and proven to adapt and respond appropriately across multiple devices in a way that maximizes conversions.”

By keeping conversion rates and A/B testing at the forefront of the conversation, we can hold our responsive designs accountable to our bottom-line goals and metrics.