Responsive design can certainly help students navigate your .edu Web site. In fact, if done well, it is fair easier than a site designed.. well, non-responsively (is that a word?).
- No pinching. Students are not forced to squint and pinch to figure out where they want to go. The site will also be gracefully degraded according to their individual screen size.
- Visual appeal. Graphics appear large and very visible.
- Future friendly. Varying sizes of tables, phones and other appliances are appearing all the time. What will the future hold? A screen on your refrigerator? A screen built into the back of a tray table on an airplane? Responsive design will allow you to sleep well knowing your content will render well on all these devices.
- Easier management. Institutions struggle as it is with keeping content up-to-date. Responsive design allows you - in theory - to use a single CMS and have one single source for all content that is rendered. This certainly is easier than having to "remember to update the mobile site".
While all the pros and certainly nice to have; we feel this does not effectively suit the needs of prospective students.
- Navigation flows. Responsive design does not allow for different navigation structures for mobile as opposed to desktop or tablet. Best practices for mobile navigation calls for significantly fewer links on a page (different navigation). With responsive design, navigation tends to be more complex and time consuming.
- Too long-winded. Copy-writing for mobile is VERY different than desktop sites. Jacob Neilson put is best.. something like “when it comes to copy-writing on mobile, short is too long”. Ideally, your full .edu site would be responsive AND you have a separate dedicated mobile site for prospective students.
- Barriers to top tasks. Creating a mobile site allows us to effectively eliminate all the “garbage” content and only focus on critical information and top tasks. For example, it would be a mistake to include a message from the Dean on the mobile site.
At Mongoose, we develop both responsive sites and mobile sites. We try our best not to be biased. Responsive design is a much more zen concept.. but, in it's current form is not best for external audiences - especially prospective students.