Responsive design has a reputation for having slower performance compared to device-specific sites, but that doesn't mean responsive sites have to be slow. Time Magazine is an example of a large (and image-heavy) site that's made the move to responsive and not only performs fast, but has even improved desktop performance (vs. its pre-responsive state).
One advantage of maintaining a separate mobile-specific site with its own code base is it gives you the ability to strip out content, features and design elements that you don't need in the mobile context. Responsive sites use one HTML file, but mobile browsers have to tackle the same HTML file as a desktop site. A responsive site must avoid running certain scripts, downloading certain images and using certain CSS that are incompatible or can slow page load speed down. It must also take care to use as many website optimization hacks as possible.
3 things that Time cites as key to their responsive performance success:
- Performance was top priority. Early responsive designs loaded painfully slow because design was the focus, and performance an afterthought. Knowing that performance lag is the biggest downside of going responsive, and making performance top priority ensures that responsive's ROI is not eroded by slow loading content.
- Creatives and developers held hands. Photography is paramount to the Time brand, and no sacrifice to image quality could be made. Time's photo team worked closely with the responsive team to optimize photography workflows. "There was definitely an improvement in performance of photos on the site as the process went on. We started to incorporate different techniques into our processes so that we could maintain the extremely high level of quality around photos and photo galleries to keep performance optimized across devices."
- Performance was tested. Time understood that site traffic will scale up. The responsive build today may be able to handle today's traffic, but it must hold as traffic scales up. With rigorous QA testing, Time was actually able to improve site performance across the board.
There are more pros and cons to the responsive vs. mobile-specific site evaluation. Want to learn more? Join our webinar with Mobify Is Responsive Web Design Right for Your Business? on Tuesday, July 30 at 10AM PT / 1PM ET. This is a LIVE webinar and space is limited!