Whiteboard Wisdom: Of Course It’s Responsive. But How Responsive?

I live in a world where techspeak can sometimes get so thick you may feel like it’s an actual other language. Or, that people are on their phones while they are talking to you so they can look up the absolute latest acronym for something. I think that is fine when you are actually talking about technical issues with technical people. But when I am trying to get concepts across to the widest possible audience I go old school and find an analogy.

So I thought for a bit on an analogy to creatively explain the different levels of responsive web design. And if you didn’t know there are different levels of responsive web design, maybe this will help you think about where your site currently is—and where you want it to be.

Let’s talk about The Warehouseman, The Concierge, and The Doctor—of responsive design.

The Warehouseman

Simply put: The Warehouseman gives you everything. The whole warehouse. Every single piece of content that is on the largest desktop view of your website gets wrapped and stacked and turned into dozens of scrolls on the smallest.

There’s nothing wrong with The Warehouseman. Day in, day out, his job is to display everything to everyone all the time.

This is how many of the pre-built themes you might purchase online work. They are built one-size-fits-most.

If you’re most, it is fine.

The Concierge

The Concierge has a little more responsibility than The Warehouseman. He becomes the gatekeeper for the content. He takes a look at the device approaching his desk: phone, tablet, or desktop—and selects and prepares the content appropriate to that device. He doesn’t know anything about the user behind the device. He only knows the device.

Examples of things The Concierge may handle: much smaller text on phones, switching from video content to image content on phones, widening buttons in the tablet ranges, pulling extremely high-res images only for desktops, adding additional nav features like ‘recently viewed’ to desktop, etc.

The Concierge gives you what you probably need.

The Doctor

The Doctor is … well, she is The Doctor. When a device comes into The Doctor’s office, she recognizes it just like The Concierge does. However, she has done a lot of research and is educated with knowledge about the collective user base. She not only knows all about the current, but also similar users from around the Web. Her diagnosis picks up where The Concierge’s pre-fab settings leave off.

Remember that much smaller text on phones idea The Concierge had? Well The Doctor knows 38.74% of your audience is over 50, so she nixes that and only drops it a point or two. And The Doctor knows mobile users have been exiting from the contact form page without filling it out—so she cuts four of the fields on phones. And right now your return visitors get exactly the same display as first time visitors. The Doctor tells you ways to tailor your content to convert those returners into customers. The Doctor has the data and her reasoning is clear.

The Doctor gives you what the data proves you need.


Cute analogies aside, what we are talking about is a fundamental difference in the entire approach to developing a modern responsive website. All responsive is not the same. It is time for a site that is reactive. Or even adaptive. If your business relies on making the most of every single opportunity, it may be worth it to invest in the research and planning of a website that will deliver content to every medium—in the way that it is best consumed in that medium. The Internet is constantly evolving, and every new possibility is also a challenge.

But there is good news!

The Doctor is in: Contact Us