Takeaway: Best practices for Responsive Design are still being worked out, but it seems that a combination of client-side and server-side solutions in the form of RESS (Responsive Web Design + Server Side Components) is the best current strategy. Knowing more about the process can help us design experiences more appropriately.
I’ve worked on responsive web designs but haven’t been involved in the dev process. Here are my notes on what I am learning about the tech side.
Client-side responsive implementations can be slow to load (especially on mobile), with code duplications for responding to different devices and images being delivered at maximum size and then resized in the device’s browser. And media queries aren’t yet foolproof.
Server-side solutions download only the necessary code, images etc since they are tightly targeted to device type—but often require multiple templates for multiple devices, which again may contain duplicative code.
LukeW addressed a RESS solution in 2011 ( link below). RESS relies on adaptive layouts with optimization based on individual components rather than full pages. A single set of PAGE templates covers all devices while key COMPONENTS implement device-specific classes on the server side. (Read Ronan Cremin’s in-depth tech discussion for more details of a recent implementation, link below).
I imagine a best practice would be to involve designers more in the dev process. If we have a better understanding of how a site will be developed, we can design components more knowledgeably to optimize the experience for everyone.