Evaluating Web Sites for Responsive Web Design

Until IEEE websites can be redesigned from the ground up using responsive web design (RWD), current website designs can be considered for retrofitting. You should carefully consider whether the level of effort it will take to retrofit a site is worth the time and expense, especially if a redesign is coming up soon. Retrofitting a site can be time-consuming and less effective than creating a responsive website design from scratch. The first step is deciding whether your site can be retrofitted or not. Often, the work it would take to retrofit a site is not worth the benefits, and it is better to wait until you can build or rebuild it from scratch. The following factors can help decide whether your site can be retrofitted or not:

  • Mobile traffic: Does the site currently receive a significant amount of mobile traffic? Roughly 3% or higher is a good target; however, even if it does not appear to be garnering much smartphone or tablet traffic, it is still possible that a retrofit is in order. It may simply be that the audience for this site does not bother because it is hard to use, so they will always view its content on desktop/laptop machines. It may be useful to directly question your audience through a survey or poll to test their need for using your site with tablets and smartphones.
  • Responsive CMS theme: Is there a simple responsive theme available for the CMS that your site is using that can be quickly applied and customized? This might be the best stop-gap solution, requiring a low level of effort.
  • Structure of HTML/use of CSS: Is the HTML structured using the standard web design practices of floating columns next to each other using CSS? If it is using tables for layout, then a responsive retrofit will likely take more time than simply starting from scratch.
  • Ability to edit global elements in one place: Can the HTML head for your site be universally edited? If the <head> tag—where the style sheet links are located—is hard-coded on every page (i.e., not using a server-side include or language like PHP), then you will need to use the bottom-up approach, adding all small and medium styles to the master style .css file used by IEEE. If you can change the head in web pages throughout your site, then you can use the preferred top-down method.