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Why Go Responsive? Here’s What Feds Are Saying

Responsive Web design implementations in the federal government have members of the Mobile Gov Community of Practice asking what is responsive Web design and how do we do it?

In February, the Mobile Gov Community of Practice hosted a workshop with more than 40 feds from 19 agencies to answer these questions.

This article is the first in a series of articles and events to highlight what we learned at the workshop and explore related topics agencies need to consider when implementing this technology.

Responsive Web design is a solution for designing a website to fit any device’s screen size. Before the how, agencies need to know the why—what are the reasons agencies should implement this mobile technology instead of, say, a native app? Here’s what we were told:

  • Workshop attendees agreed that the growth in the number of mobile users from multiple platforms is the main reason for agencies implementing responsively designed websites.

  • A number of participants pointed out the numbers of mobile users are increasing, including one agency who has a growing number of low-income mobile only users accessing their sites.

  • Matt Harmon from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) also noted that in the wake of a disaster, a mobile device is often the only way for citizens to access information.

  • Mobile app fatigue is another reason. Another participant noted that he didn’t want a bunch of apps cluttering his phone, he’d rather look at a responsive site.

  • Abraham Marinez from the Department of Education noted that apps take a lot of time and resources and for a lot of agencies the Web is what their customers want.

  • A number of participants noted that the user experience may not always be conducive to a Web or native app. If content is informational and not transactional or improved by mobile device functionality, responsive and mobile Web can be the best way to serve information to users.

  • Decreased development costs also are a factor. With the advent of toolsets that make it easier to develop responsively, it’s much more attractive to write one code base than create 15 for different-sized screens.

  • Design considerations also have played a role. A number of participants noted that responsively-designed sites look beautiful, focusing on just the content and images/videos that post.

  • Lastly, some agencies are deliberately staying out of the app development market because they don’t want to compete with the private sector.

Are there other considerations that come to mind for responsive Web design? Help us continue the responsive Web design conversation in the comments.

Federal employees can let us know their thoughts on responsive Web design at next week’s MobileGov Around the Horn Call.

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