When You Can’t Use Responsive Design

Responsive Design is Great. But Sometimes You Need a Different Solution.

Applications today need to be able to run on phones and tablets as well as desktop and laptops. Fortunately, there has been great progress in designing responsive UI’s that adapt to different screen sizes and resolutions.

Now, responsive design is not always a good solution. Some applications don't transfer well and you need to rethink the UI for different devices. Not every task transfers equally well to a different form factor so you need to consider adaptive design instead. It's a powerful approach that's less often used because it's more expensive. It's important to consider adaptive designs but that’s a different discussion. This case is about a situation where responsive design was not possible because of technical limitations.

The application was a 20-year old legacy reporting app designed for a desktop. There was good reason to port it to mobile devices so users could select and kick-off a report from anywhere. Reports ran in the background and were available in a few minutes to a few hours depending on their complexity,

The problem was that it didn't use style sheets which are central to responsive design. And some of the screens were really complex.

I was able to scale the screen complexity down and develop designs for both the phone and tablet. Here are some sample wireframes. Not the coolest mobile app perhaps but a great improvement for customers on the go.