Responsive Web Design is Not the Future

In 2000, The FWA (a popular website awards program) gave their prestigious Site of the Year award to Look and Feel New Media, shown below. Visit the site for some context of what I’ll be discussing, but turn down your speakers or headphones because it has background music.

The Look and Feel New Media site is a simple Flash website by today’s standards, but it was state of the art back when Flash was an innovative web technology.

Now, thirteen years later, with the capabilities of HTML5 and CSS3 standards, Flash is now on the way to extinction in the sense of, at the very least, modern web design and development.

Even Flash technology’s owner, Adobe, decided to discontinue the development of this ubiquitous rich media platform’s mobile version.

So what does this have to do with responsive web design (RWD)?

Well, responsive web design has gained an enormous amount of momentum since its introduction in 2010 through an article named "Responsive Web Design" published on A List Apart.

And the design philosophy’s popularity today is comparable to Flash websites in the early-2000s.

Let me state that Flash is a technology, whilst responsive web design is a device-independent design philosophy, so that is not a direct, apples-to-apples comparison.

However, it’s a parallel to hopefully open our minds when considering the ever-attractive design philosophy that is responsive web design.

Just as HTML survived the Flash versus HTML debate of the last decade, I believe we should not write off other mobile development techniques and alternatives just yet.

Below, I will discuss some issues I’ve come to realize with responsive web design (RWD).

Web Performance

Responsive websites are not much smaller in download size when viewed on smaller devices or screen resolutions when compared to being viewed on a desktop browser jacked into a broadband internet service provider.

Last year, Guy Podjarny, chief product architect at Akamai tested 347 sites featured on the responsive web design gallery Media Queries using Google Chrome with multiple devices, and the web-based tool WebPagetest.

He found that the web page size and load time results were nearly identical regardless of device or screen resolution being tested. The results from Podjarny’s test can be found in his presentation at BDConf.

What does that mean? Even though we might view a responsive website on a smaller screen and it displays less visible content or smaller-sized images, this does not mean that the site will load faster.

You might say, "But that’s not a big deal, mobile internet is really fast now."

It’s true that mobile networks are becoming increasingly faster.

However, mobile internet speeds still lag behind broadband internet speeds. Currently, browsing the Web using a desktop computer is still significantly faster.

Last year, the average broadband internet speed was 2.6Mbps[1] versus only 2.02Mbps[2] for the average smartphone mobile network internet speed. The year before, the average mobile internet speed was only 1.18Mbps.

In the best-case scenario, broadband internet is still 28.7% faster than smartphone mobile internet.

How important is website speed? What types of margins do we have in terms of users being forgiving of even a slightly longer load time? According to Google research, mobile users "expect their mobile experience to be as good as their desktop experience."

The infographic by KISSmetrics below shows the dramatic impact of loading time. An e-commerce website making $100,000 per day could actually be losing $2.5 million a year with just a 1-second page delay.


It’s not a far stretch to assume that dedicated mobile web development solutions is going to be more optimized than responsive web design because they specifically address mobile devices. A rudimentary comparison of dedicated mobile solutions versus RWD solutions suggests that this is true.

Of course, there are ways to optimize responsive web designs, such as serving smaller images and conditionally loading scripts, but you have to think about the performance ceiling of these optimization techniques compared to developing wesites specifically for mobile devices.


"Blame the Implementation, Not the Technique" is a great article to read.

The article, by web developer and book author Tim Kadlec, challenges the stance of some folks that responsive web design is slow compared to other solutions that cater only to mobile devices. The article argues that good implementation of RWD can address most performance issues on the Web.

We can probably make most responsive websites load dramatically faster on a mobile screen, but there is no denying responsive web design is inherently complex.

When comparing responsive websites to dedicated mobile websites — such as "m dot" subdomains like — there is no argument when the point of discussion is complexity.

A typical "m dot" site  is simple. It usually has a small amount of HTML, limited scripts, CSS, and images (if at all). It is built specifically for its intended viewing experience: small-screen, touchscreen mobile devices.

And if we were to talk about development time and ease, there are many web tools that can take your site’s RSS feed and convert it to a dedicated, mobile website.

Responsive web designs, on the other hand, are inherently complex because they are trying to support many viewing experiences without necessarily optimizing the experience for one particular device (or genre of devices).

Mobile browsers will have to deal with a big HTML file, and the site would need to carefully avoid running specific scripts, loading certain CSS and download large images.

Perfect implementation is possible, but avoiding over-resourcing requires scripts or code and therefore additional complexity.

A responsive website tuned for best performance would still not be as fast as a dedicated mobile website that’s implemented equally well.

Time and Money

With a higher level of complexity comes a higher resource cost.

With responsive web design, gone are the days of simple mock-ups in Photoshop and a designer’s work is done.

Responsive web design workflow is still evolving and is becoming gradually more streamlined, but currently, it’s quite impossible to complete the same website project without increasing the resources you spend.

Borrowing Viljamis’ responsive web design workflow above, you can see the workflow can start to look like Agile development paradigm or use of Scrum development framework.

The obvious issues with flexible development philosophies and frameworks has always been a higher resource cost, whether it’s the skills required, the cost required or increased client interaction demands.

UI and UX Limitations

The difference between a desktop user and a mobile user is not only screen size.

Responsive websites are limited for utilizing or recognizing key mobile features such as user location, connectivity, device limitations, software potential, and user needs.

Yes, there are many ways to create an ideal user interface and experience for several layouts with responsive web design, but there are clear limitations compared to having a dedicated mobile website.

Above, admittedly not the finest example, illustrates straightforward differences between great user experience on mobile devices (left) versus a very average user interface (right) for mobile devices.

When a different UI is required for mobile users, responsive web design becomes an obvious secondary choice to me.

Brian Fling, author of the book Mobile Design and Development puts it beautifully:

"Take an airline website, for example. Simply taking the web experience and trying to put it on a small screen doesn’t help the user at all; in fact, it has the opposite effect. If the user is on the way to the airport and needs to check whether a flight is delayed, the last thing your user has time to do is scroll around to find where to check flight times. If you’ve found yourself racing to make a flight and needing to find your flight information, such as times, gate, etc., you need that information quickly."

Preventing Innovation

This is the danger in having tunnel vision and claiming responsive web design is the future: innovation in solutions outside of RWD might be overlooked.

And outside of RWD, there are innovations that a few companies are reaping the rewards of.

For example, the banking giant JP Morgan Chase thought about the specific characteristics of mobile devices that they could use to enhance the online banking experience, instead of simply reformatting their desktop website for mobile customers.

Their mobile app has a feature called Quick Deposit that uses smartphone cameras to take pictures for depositing checks.

According to the company, consumers have used this feature to deposit over $4 billion dollars and the app has won several awards including the highly renowned Webby Award in 2011.

Google is another good example. Despite their recommendations towards responsive web design, the tech company is into heavily developing mobile-only technology and content.

One example is Google Now for Android. It has been called "the jewel of Android 4.2" and it won the Popular Science’s Innovation of the Year.

Google could have made their content responsive and refrained from innovating. But they did not, and their business is better for it.

As smartphone sales hit an all time high, should we not be innovating for these devices?

Certainly, for types of websites with limited user interaction — such as informational sites, blogs and news sites — responsive web design is a good, and often very practical, solution.

But for websites and web apps that want to take advantage of what touchscreen mobile devices offers, can they effectively do so with a responsive web design philosophy compared to native/dedicated mobile site development solutions?

Current or Future?

You may be surprised if I told you I love responsive web design, because I do.

It definitely has its place on the Web right now.

I believe responsive web design is a current trend, but I dare not say it is the future at all.

With the rapid growth of the Web and future improvements in screen technology, it would be a folly to label responsive web design as the future.

What do you think? How heavily should we invest into responsive web design?


  1. "Akamai: Global Average Broadband Speeds Up By 25%, U.S. Up 29% To 6.7 Mbps" (
  2. "Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update, 2012–2017" (

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About the Author

Josh Chan is a Senior Digital Specialist at Chromatix — a boutique web design and marketing agency in Melbourne, Australia. He lives and breathes awesome design, web innovation and likes some breakdancing on the side. Follow him on Twitter @j0ssh or on Google+.

This was published on Apr 1, 2013


Darrell Hanley Apr 01 2013

If we are going to bemoan the possible pitfalls of responsive web design, then we should at least be fair in our point of comparison. The author has chosen to compare responsive web design to native applications, featuring technologies that are presently unavailable on mobile browsers to begin with. For example, the Chase application pictured above would require the HTML5 upload api, which has only partial support in iOS 6, media input which isn’t supported anywhere in the mobile internet, and generally makes this a poor example. As for Google Now, aspects of it do indeed exist on Google’s website as informational blurbs on the item you were searching, and have been part of the Google experience for the past few months. The only aspect that has not been translated to the web is the voice recognition portion of the service, and that is because the new HTML voice recognition API has only been added to Chrome a month ago, and is available on no other browser, desktop or mobile, at least for the time being. Not to mention that if we are talking about time and money, then a series of native mobile apps are far more expensive to make and produce than a responsive website, as, at the very least, you would have to create two apps for Android and iOS, which have to conform to each respective environment’s UI standards, and would have to design for both tablets and smartphones, each generally treated on both platforms as having totally distinct layouts. Even then, you miss out on the fringe operating systems such as BlackBerry and Windows Phone, unless you dedicate yourself to creating apps for everyone who puts out an SDK. Speak nothing of the cost of app developers and maintaining all of these apps.

Daniel Aldea Apr 01 2013

I must admit that I read the article with a very cautious eye, I’m a fan of responsive web design, but I think you’re absolutely right. Congratulations, it’s a great article!

Greg McMullen Apr 01 2013

I agree with you that Responsive isn’t the future, but it’s the “now.”

Just yesterday, I was talking about how some websites are modified to be “responsive” (or adaptive in my current situation). It’s a hack job. The site doesn’t look as good as it should if you were to go back to the drawing board, instead of adding media queries and styles here and there.

My thought at this point is to:
– Layout a new responsive/adaptive/whatever site
– Get the processes/procedures DOWN
– Plan to do it again in 3-5 years.

Websites have to change with technology. With the addition of mobiles and tablets, desktop computing could be obsolete in 5-10 years. So that design you made for a desktop and degraded down for mobile won’t be your solution; but a means to nail a process for future revisions.

Good insights.

Jim Silverman Apr 01 2013

no solution, responsive design included, is one size fits all.

Brad Frost Apr 01 2013

I posted a response to this on my blog:

This post fundamentally misses the point of what responsive web design and progressive enhancement are all about.

I hope that Six Revisions readers are smart enough to take this type of short-sighted thinking with a grain of salt.

Craig McPheat Apr 01 2013

Wait, this isn’t an April Fool?

Andy Ward Apr 01 2013

Yes! Thank you for saying what many of us have been thinking. Although responsive design is the hot buzz-word right now, it has many limitations and I personally steer clients away from it for many of the same reasons you mentioned.

– Not lightweight enough for mobile networks.
– Overly complex, longer development times, more cost.
– Does not take into account that mobile visitors often have different needs than desktop visitors.

Brian Behrend Apr 01 2013

Was this an April Fools Day joke?

Seriously, every point made is a misunderstanding of the available techniques and misplaces blame for some valid issues on responsive design. Just because people misuse a new technique, does’t mean the technique is bad. Under your logic we shouldn’t be doing mobile design at all because separate mobile websites have been slow, complex, and with awful UX for about 10 years now.

Juan Antonio Apr 01 2013

Responsive design is a tool, not “the” tool. For me, is a question of customer’s budget. With responsive you solve the problem of maintain three themes or one theme and mobile app.

Brett Jankord Apr 01 2013

When are you going to tell us this article is an April Fools Joke? That’s what this is right… right? Oh God, your actually serious about this…

Russell Skaggs Apr 01 2013

Responsive design is the future when dealing with Multi-Channel experiences, however if you are looking for a Cross-Channel experience it is just not the right tool for the job.

The size issue is all about implementation. Using a mobile first strategy to load in correct images and javascript libraries (jQuery does NOT belong on mobile) will see a huge impact on size.

The complexity point is garbage. Decoupling your HTML, CSS, and JavaScript will keep complexity low, and it is much better than maintaining separate code for each device. (Hint, if your HTML is doing something other than describing content, your doing it wrong).

When dealing with multi-channel experiences, Responsive Design is here to stay.

Westley Knight Apr 01 2013

Considering the date this was posted, I hope this is a (very poor) April Fools joke. People will read this and believe what is written. A very bad idea indeed.

Tom Hermans Apr 01 2013

I wasn’t gonna type a reply to this post with a lot of really odd claims and assumptions, but luckily brad frost did..

And seriously, the flash comparison?!!
RWD link to flash is mostly that it’s completely THE OPPOSITE..

Michael Thomas Richards Apr 01 2013

I sure hope this is an April Fools joke.

Mike Condiff Apr 01 2013

I’ve grappled with this a bit myself. I do think some form of responsive design is the future. The “Write Once – Run Anywhere” philosophy I think is great for developers and website owners.

I agree that page speed is important. But I think the PRO’s of writing the page once and having it display on most devices outweighs the CON’s of page speed at this point.

I don’t have time or resources to devote to a mobile website or App. I think as responsive design gets a little more mature and there are some breakthroughs in not displaying/downloading images and scripts in mobile then page speed will be a non-issue. Right now it’s an issue, at least for me but I’m willing to live with it as a trade-off for the flexibility and ease of use.

Also, if you can do your current job from a tablet then god bless you. Otherwise I don’t see this mass exodus from Desktop computing that everyone else does. 5-10 years I still don’t see Touch and Swipe taking over for Keyboard and Mouse. That’s just me though, maybe I’m wrong.

John Brett Apr 01 2013

Suggestion: change the headline to read “Bad Responsive Design is Not the Future”

Bob james Apr 01 2013

Hell yeah LINK BAIT!

Josh Chan Apr 01 2013

Darrell, thanks for your comments. I didn’t title this article the pitfalls of responsive web design for a reason, the points made are to highlight why RWD is ‘not the future’. The point I made about native applications was not a direct comparison at all, given the topic/title of the article.

Josh Chan Apr 01 2013

Thanks for your detailed response Brad, I respect your opinions and I knew this article would be a point of controversy amongst the community.

I’m a bit shocked that you felt disappointed with my article though. I love RWD, the point was not to start a flame war but “to hopefully open our minds when considering the ever-attractive design philosophy that is responsive web design.”

Luke Hopkins Apr 01 2013

It’s early days, there are some issues with RWD but dismissing it at this stage is ridiculous.

Plus the alternatives are becoming less feasible by the day as more web-enabled devices come out.

Not sure where this “It costs more” argument has come from either, from my experience, building a responsive site is pretty similar time-wise as building a full site + mobile site.

Kamal Chaneman Apr 01 2013

Great information! you’re absolutely right about RWD.

Josh Chan Apr 01 2013

I welcome comments both negative and positive, but please try and keep your comments constructive.

I haven’t dismissed RWD at all, but simply challenging our thinking towards RWD especially in its current state.

Remi Grumeau Apr 02 2013

As a mobile web advocate & teacher for the last 2 years, I have to say that I’m 200% agree with you. RWD is more complicated, takes a lot more time and resources, brings an average OK experience for everyone.
That’s true when your RWD work stops on the client-side.

Then you’ll discover the holy graal land of server-side profiling, resources encapsulation, which optimize requests number and file size. If your rwd website weights 230kb on a mobile, don’t blame RWD, blame yourself.

But that doesn’t change the fact that you’re right: all the time spent on optimizing for RWD could be spent on a f*** good looking desktop experience, and an OK mobile-only website. Then what if 30% of your visitors are using an iPhone or iPad?!
And where is the border between mobile or desktop? How do you redirect people from one to another? If an iPad is a tablet, what is a notebook? What is an Acer or HP Transformer? Would you serve desktop or mobile to a Galaxy Note2? What will be hype in the next 6 months? How do you deal with SEO and duplicate contents? Sharing from different sources?

If you don’t have the answer to this, forget about mobile specific website, and go RWD my friend :) Yet, I’m still agree, even more when it comes to webapps like Google Music, Maps or Facebook.

zahid Apr 02 2013

Is it really a april fool joke???? or something else?

Rob van Linda Apr 02 2013

Hi there,

I have seen a post here in which someone posted scaling a website down to mobile. It seems that thete are still a lot of developers who never heard of “mobile first”?

And does anyone really believe, that a customer is willing to maintain two versions? Dream on!

It is a problem already to explain customers that a website lives because of regular new high quality content. The main answer on that is “I’ve got no time!”

So there is NO way that a customer, who buys a site is going to do maintaining twice.

We’ll soon have new css techniques (css4) which will enhance the speed of a site.

Rwd IS the future. And customers will always choose between a responsive website or a native app.

It is NOT about us developers. It is about customers who want a website and have no clue about technic (not their job) and have no time because they run a business to earn money to pay my fee.

And THOSE people make the rules, right?

Barry Apr 02 2013

I find it hard to take this article seriously after reading: “And if we were to talk about development time and ease, there are many web tools that can take your site’s RSS feed and convert it to a dedicated, mobile website.” This just ignores the complexity of the web in general and I don’t know how this adds anything to the case you are trying to make.

Also using the Chase native app example to illustrate the limitations of RWD is just showing the limitations of the web in general and that includes mobile specific versions of websites.

I think the only thing worth taking away from this is that the importance of optimizing page load times.

Someone please tell me this was an april fools!

How on earth did this got published on Six Revisions?

Kirk Beard Apr 02 2013

As with any new technology or technique, there’s bound to be growing pains while we learn the best way to manage assets. If clients have a decent budget and can afford to build (and maintain) a dedicated mobile site then that’s great, but for a lot of clients their budgets don’t cover the cost of this.

I’ve been doing a lot of flying recently, and I’m damn sick of using airline websites on my iPhone, but it wouldn’t take much for them to improve the UI with some fairly basic media queries. It might not be the absolute best approach, but it wouldn’t do any harm in the meantime.

I still believe RWD has a great future and so long as teams plan accordingly then it can be used quite effectively. What we’re seeing right now is just growing paints as people learn how to use RWD properly.

As the Article suggests RWD is “a device-independent design philosophy”

Surely this design philosophy is the way forward. Even though RWD will need to evolve and there are many solutions still to be found this evolution will need to keep the device independent design philosophy to be viable into the future.

I can’t wait to see what the future has for us!

Mario Bruneau Apr 02 2013

Josh is 100% right on this!
I don’t know what is Google’s hidden agenda when saying that RWD is THE WAY TO GO.
Don’t let Google run you or your business.
The big G is NOT always right.
I go for the html small mobile sites and focused on the mobinaute’s expectations which are completely different than when this same mobinaute is surfing on his PC.
Mario Bruneau

Jason Apr 02 2013

Did you really just compare Chase’s Mobile App to a RWD site?

Please, you cannot compare a native mobile platform app to a website. RWD was never intended to replace mobile apps. The appspace is COMPLETELY different. Any credibility you could hope to have is completely shattered by this ridiculous notion.

Aaron Gustafson Apr 02 2013

I can see the argument you are trying to make, but your view misses some key points I am sure Brad addressed in his response (I’m off to read it in a moment).

I just wanted to give a shout-out to USAA as the originators of the“ take a photo of your check to deposit it” tech. They came up with it and will hopefully see some restitution for the IP theft by Chase, Bank of America, etc.

Brad O'Donnell Apr 02 2013

Responsive has a bright future. It’s perfect for small to medium sites an for those with smaller budgets. The planning and build for a responsive site is almost always cheaper then the planning and building of TWO sites. Plus almost all of the things that you nailed responsive sites for sucking at (lots-o-markup and huge images) are easily overcome with stuff like responsive.js (

Native apps have no place in this article since… well, they are native apps. Apples and oranges. Of course you get much better features but developing a native app is much more expensive to do then making a site responsive and few sites warrant a native app.

If responsive wasn’t evolving as it is then sure it wouldn’t be the future. But it is being embraced and people are actively solving all of the little issues it has and making sure it is the future.

Responsive is going to be around a long time.

Josiah Sprague Apr 02 2013

Ha! Funny April Fools joke! I almost thought you were serious, but then I realized that I’ve never read an article so stupid on Six Revisions, so it must be a joke. Almost got me!

Charles Apr 02 2013

Just wanted to point out a little inaccuracy in the assessment of Google Now.

1) Google Now is not “responsive” in that it is a mobile app. Actually, it is more than just a standard app – it is increasingly becoming an integral part of the Android platform, and does not have an app icon itself. It is accessed from the “home” button.

It seems as though Google may be pushing Google Now as the primary front-end for their mobile devices (this is certainly the case for Google Glass).

2) Apparently there are plans to bring Google Now to Chrome as well, so it is possible that the Android release was only the first implementation or test-case.

3) Aside from special functions that Now provides, you can actually access all of the same data (with greater depth and more info-graphics) via your browser on your account dashboard.

I suppose I agree with your overall point that RWD is not a final solution for every problem, particularly problems that really need a dedicated app (with the increased performance).

However, I don’t think that any web designer/developer is proposing that pure RWD will overall all use for applications (particularly not with the way our current devices work, or rather don’t work, together).

Maybe some misinformed managers or clients request unrealistic goals out of a responsive website, but that only means it is our job to 1)bridge the gap of expectations and reality, and 2)when there is a real need, develop the right tool for the job.

Google Now is actually a good example for this approach: most of the data is available on a website in some form, but an application is built to handle all features that must integrate more deeply with your device (like notifications, instant recognition of your location, …) for quick response.

I hope this article wasn’t part of some elaborate April Fools joke…

Marc Poulin Apr 02 2013

Great article. I dislike complexity because it created maintenance problems which halts the website evolution and optimization. Also, I believe that in many instances, a full website on a mobile is useless and counterproductive because it does not consider context.

Jesse Apr 02 2013

I’m not even going to start with the multitude of disagreements I have with your article, because the majority have already been voiced in the comments above.

I will however say this: REALLY?! You work on the web and you can stand behind what you’ve written here? Do you not realize that RWD is a long-term response to the changing web, and not a pointless flash-in-the-pan fad (pun intended)?

Skeumorphism is a fad. Rounded corners are a fad. RWD is more like typography or white space – it’s a design principle (albeit one that is exclusive to interactive design).

Brad Frost’s response to your article is fantastic. You should read it with an open mind and a little humility.

Michael Apr 02 2013

I have to wonder if you know how good RWD is done.

Debug Design Apr 03 2013

For simple websites I agree that responsive website design is the way forward but for more complex websites or websites that would have different use when viewed on a mobile ‘such as the the airline example’ I think its important to have a dedicated version. At the end of the day you have to design for the user and the function you want it to perform.

Every application has its time and place. Flash is still used by millions of websites. Desktop is not going anywhere, the most that will happen to them is that they will be replaced with laptops and when in a decade laptops go obsolete then tables or something new will come out. I have been to many websites by big companies and they have not adopted for responsive design. There must be a reason why.

“insert obligatory minority report photo here”

because, as you know, the final answer in UX is for all of us to be waving our hands in front of huge panes of glass.

That was a whole lot of scepticism about a technology that has clearly been misused and misunderstood. Responsive design isn’t a one size fits all solution. You can’t just apply media queries like they grow on trees. If you’re client wants to develop a responsive site, I say go for it! Hmm, let me think about how easy it would be to maintain one site coded for the most commonly used language in the world. No wait, you’re right, hiring multiple developers to code in Java and Objective-C and who knows what else is a much better solution.

What we have here is a failure to communicate or to think outside the mobile world. Sure responsive design isn’t for everyone, but it can certainly appeal to a broad spectrum of client needs. Using this new method does require some thinking and lots of planning, but it’s still cheaper and quicker than developing three different application for Web, Android, iOS, and so on. To put it simply, if I save one second of load time by building three different applications and for argument sake, it takes me three times as long to launch my product. It would take a lot of seconds to make up for that additional development time and cost; not to mention I’ve lost three times the amount of time I could have used to market my product. I’m not seeing the savings or the logic here.

To end this rant, if history repeats itself, which it often almost does (the web as destroyed by Internet Explorer) somewhere, somehow, someone will start to enforce a standard for all these ridiculous devices in the sea of crap. It could be very likely that we’ll see HTML, CSS, JavaScript and the like become far more useful and powerful in the mobile realm, not that they aren’t already. Unless we plan to ditch the browser as the main portal to the world wide web, this technology is only going to grow. We are experiencing a different model of thinking here. Being flexible, focusing on function and improving the user experience is the number one goal. Sometimes sacrifices must be made to achieve the greater good. If not, then consider alternative development options, but for the time being responsive design is a wonderful and flexible tool that can do great things in the hands of a professional.

Yes it is the future, as long as RWD becomes the norm for website design, and that it becomes a common aspect of every business website, then sooner it will become a standard. RWD is not the future if you’re talking about overly-graphic design – strip the design away, and make the UI functional using Sync, great – practical web UIs for all devices – please, no nodding chickens, or floating clouds, just plainly branded and accessible info/data – I’m sorry, but what alternative do you propose given that mobile browsing is likely to stay the same for a fair few years yet. Some say that 80% of all/most/many/however-many websites are not optimised for mobile devices – how many of that 80% are businesses, how many are small businesses who are unwilling/unable to re-invest. What about long-standing web services that haven’t adopted RWD, or even mention or offer it to their clients. Automation is the key, as in OS CMSs – and finally, automatic conversion of all static websites to Responsive. HTML & CSS are fine, they work well, it’s the over-design and over use of graphics that make everything weigh more.

… Actually, I think you’re from the future, and you’ve come here to tell us that BCI controlled Holography is the way it will be – in which case, I’d better start taking my cod liver oil. What really annoys me in mediaQs is that most websites are overly graphic/styled – tribal. RWD would be better if the UIS had one little logo for ID purposes, and info/data – Please, tell me, Godfrey, why are my so confused, I feel like I’m taking crazy pills.

have a good web site design that’s not only look nice only on pc and laptop but will look also nice in other digital media screens is great that’s why i like RWD, rather than create two design versions for one site, and yes about the speed it need a solution….

gia may phat dien Apr 04 2013

So agree with Jesse, RWD is really good

Guys, it’s an april’s fools joke.
As soon as I saw who he said they gave the FWA to the flash site with volume, I knew it was a joke.

I can’t believe all you guys who are agreeing with him, hahaha

Mahbub Apr 04 2013

I’m in agreement with this article. Last few weeks we were developing mobile webs (320×480) and responsive layout was an overkill because mobile web has less than 50% elements of a desktop web. So enormous amount of resource loading is not a good idea. So we eneded up with a responsive layout from Tab to Desktop and a separate one for mobile – which in the end turned out to be way faster because of low overhead.

Tarun Kalra Apr 05 2013

joke with your audiences…on april fool…. may be or may not be

Martin Apr 05 2013

Responsive Design is the immediate future for small to medium businesses. A belated happy April fools day to you.

Patrick Apr 05 2013

I’m not a web designer, just an average guy with an interest in the subject, but here’s my two cents:

I think you missed the boat here on user expectations on mobile devices. You wrote “According to Google research, mobile users ‘expect their mobile experience to be as good as their desktop experience.'”

I would take that one step further, and say that mobile users expect it to be even faster. When I’m on my mobile phone consuming content, I’m not settled into my favorite chair with a refreshing beverage in hand, relaxing. Instead I’m either a) trying to find some information or make a decision quickly or b) passing time, usually in small increments such as waiting in line at the grocery store. In either case, I want my content delivered quickly.

Whether the ever-increasing mobile network speeds will render that point moot remains to be seen, of course, but all you “real” web designers out there have a lot to say about it too.

Jennifer Apr 05 2013

This article has provoked tons of discussion amongst members of the design community, as well as a string of blogged responses! This is my response to both your article and the responses! :)
While I don’t necessary agree with your point of view, I do appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts!

Aahna Apr 06 2013

Can’t compare PC with Smartphones and tablets. These tiny devices can’t give you performance of a PC, they are only good for surfing, chatting & watching video kind of stuff, certainly not for professional working.

He is still a young man, so I think he needed some attention.

To be honest I am not a fan of WordPress as a CMS and developers who tell the world that it IS a FULL CMS and use it as one, I don’t take too serious.

This article is incompetent.

Best regards,


David Addison Apr 08 2013

A RWD site can certainly be made to perform as fast as a site. The old style jQuery UI mobile technology is just too basic. Mobile users want a rich experience. They want all the same great information as the desktop or iPad/tablet users.

You are comparing RWD to native apps. Not fair. They both have a place in the market. Most firms cannot afford to develop a native iOS (Objective-C) and android (Java) app plus support a website. It is just too expensive. This is where RWD really shines. Bootstrap and Zurb foundation make RWD pretty simple. Building a great site is always technical.

RWD is terrific. I’m on the bandwagon. Ten years from now we’ll be using Glass and RWD will likely be old. Some sort of hybrid experience/design framework will likely exist. Everything gets old. Nothing really stands the test of time. Websites need to be rebuilt every 2-3 years to stay current. Pick a good CMS and most of your content will stay the same. You can just reskin. UX/IA is in constant flux. If you’re rebuilding this year you best use RWD. In 2-3 years pivot to whatever is current. This is how it works.

Murray Apr 09 2013

I find it extraordinary that so many members of what is supposed to be a creative community simply dismiss something that is outside their own range of experiences – and by this I am referring to many of the commenters.

RWD has a lot going for it – in certain circumstances – and a number of shortcomings. There is no doubt that it will be embraced more and more as we move forward and it is certainly possible that some of those shortcomings will be addressed and overcome, but right now RWD is not the be all and end all.

I am not a designer or a developer – my background is in content – but I have been working in this space for over a decade now and have worked on the provision and maintenance of digital assets for a couple of hundred quite diverse clients/companies/organisations.

Just a couple of quick points from my experience/perspective:

Users expect the people who create and maintain websites to be smart enough to put the most important stuff “up front” and the most important stuff to someone on a mobile device may not be the same as that for a user on a desktop.

There are some things that just work better when deliberately designed for a more compact and more interactive interface, so why would you “penalise” users on mobile devices by not offering those sorts of things simply because they can’t be “expanded out” for a full-size screen experience?

So before you dismiss anyone’s point of view on the subject, please keep in mind that RWD, like many other techniques, tools and technologies, fits perfectly into this sentence: “Whether (insert name here) is appropriate depends on business objectives”.

There simply will never be a one-size-fits-all solution in our line of work.

AppTrawler Apr 09 2013

I think there is a lot of valid points there. Responsive design is fine if you intent to deliver the same content to mobiles but if usability dictates that mobile users want your site for other things such as contact info, maps or booking info then you shouldn’t put a massive amount of text and imagery in their way.

egiova Apr 09 2013

Well documented article, but lacks of clear perspectives.
My opinion: responsive design is suitable for small and medium-sized enterprises, while the dedicated mobile is still reserved for large companies because of its cost of development, be pragmatic. Period. I agree @Brad O’Donnel comment.
What the future holds us as surprises, we’ll know soon enough… Meanwhile our present time is what it is.

PS: WP is a blog engine.

Jesse Apr 09 2013

Ben – in case you haven’t noticed, it was just happenstance that this was posted on April 1st. The author is far from joking and quite defensive of his position.

Taimur Rehman Apr 10 2013

I totally agree, because its only a fever for a short time, when it goes away, no one would talk about it anymore :)

BestDesignMag Apr 12 2013

Response website is the best solution now, No one know the future of web design.

Bryson Meunier Apr 12 2013

Josh, thanks for the article. It makes a lot of the same points that I made in a Search Engine Land article last month called When Responsive Web Design is Bad for SEO. We even use the same examples for some of the points.

Your point about Flash is well taken, and I explain it this way a lot. Josh Clark, Brad Frost and Luke W. are part of a collective called Future Friendly that espouses adaptive content and responsive web design, but the truth is they don’t know if responsive web design will be used in the future any more than anyone. Flash was hugely popular among web designers when I first started in Internet marketing, and Steve Jobs and mobility changed that. Some other methodology that doesn’t have these constraints that responsive web design has and is based on some future technology could supplant it. Calling responsive web design future friendly is more wishful thinking, as well as a rhetorical tactic to get people to subscribe to the methodology. The truth is none of us have any idea what kinds of sites we’ll be designing five years from now, and what techniques we’ll be using to do that.

(That includes you, btw. If I disagree with anything about this post it’s the inflammatory title, which is as ridiculous as calling your RWD collective Future Friendly. )

The sad truth is that many responsive web sites are barely user friendly today, let alone future friendly. In my last Search Engine Land column I discussed three sites picked as .Net magazine’s examples of top responsive web sites of 2012 (, and, and they all have serious problems when it comes to SEO and usability. And these are responsive sites that are critically acclaimed today.

Don’t let the criticism get to you. Many people are passionate about responsive web design today and see it as the underdog still, which is why they’ll view dissent as a personal attack. There are others in the community who do see serious issues with the responsive methodology, and doubt its relevance in the future if these issues aren’t resolved. Hopefully working together all of us can come up with solutions that address the issues you’ve raised, and the issues responsive web design advocates have raised, and deploy them for future generations. In the meantime we have responsive web design, dynamic serving and dedicated mobile sites.

Probably wasn’t a good idea to release this on April Fool’s Day though, eh? Never really a good day to start a serious discussion.

Dan C Apr 16 2013

I’d stick with “Blame the Implementation, Not the Technique”

Russell Apr 17 2013

Ugh. You know, there are intelligent ways to argue against responsive designs and then there’s this. Regardless of the content of your article, let me point out your logical flaws and inconsistencies.

You have an entire part of your article dedicated to Web Performance, and it is riddled with mistakes.

Your first mistake is that you claim RWD is not the FUTURE of design and then use TODAY’S mobile internet speeds to justify it – even though you specifically remark how the average mobile internet connection speed is increasing and closing the gap between itself and desktop speed. By your own data, we can assume the trend will continue into the future until there is virtually no significant difference between broadband and mobile internet speeds. This means that the entire concern of file size will become a moot point in the future. Not to mention you’re completely ignoring the data that points to mobile users connecting through WiFi the majority of the time – meaning that even though they’re on a mobile device they still have access to broadband speeds.

Second here is this line: “He found that the web page size and load time results were nearly identical regardless of device or screen resolution being tested.” By your own admittance the LOAD TIMES are nearly identical. Meaning the mobile users don’t have to wait any longer than they would on a broadband connection. So tell me, what is your point with this entire section? You talk about how important load time is but you specifically note that the load time is IDENTICAL on both experiences. Who cares what the file size is if it loads in the same amount of time? Again, this entire section about performance is moot.

In your Time and Money section you say responsive requires more resources than just building a single desktop site – but that’s not an apples-to-apples comparison. When you’re done with a RWD site, you have a desktop site, mobile site, tablet site, and widescreen site. Of course it will require more than just a desktop site. But would RWD take more resources than completing 4 different “m dot” variations of a site? Of course not. Yes – getting more requires you build more resources, but RWD is 100% more efficient than the process to build out 4 completely different sites.

For your UI/UX Limitations section – you’re specifically talking about a mobile site versus a mobile app. There is a huge difference between a website and a web application. Facebook is an application, not a site. Also, there’s no reason you couldn’t do the Facebook app screen (on the left) on a site. The fact that they didn’t doesn’t mean they couldn’t.

The Preventing Innovation solution is incomprehensible. This is like saying that people who said “Flash is the future” prevented the innovation of RWD. Obviously that didn’t happen. And again you show the inability to differentiate between an app and a website with your JP Morgan Chase example. Look, if you need an app you need an app; if you need a site you need a site. There are different use-cases for them.

There are just too many logical fallacies, oversights, over simplifications, and incorrect comparisons to take any of this article seriously.

Daniel Apr 20 2013

Like others say, responsive website design may not be the best fit in all circumstances. But for now, it’s the best we’ve got. The examples of providing killer mobile experiences were all native apps. Great, if your client has the budget for that and the time to do it right. If they don’t, and even if they do, having one website that serves most users’ needs regardless of platform is the way to go… again, for now.

I loved the opening about Flash. That was spot-on. Look, this stuff’s always changing. You have to roll with the changes and be prepared to update your site and strategy as things change. It’s one of the great things about the web.

The J Day Apr 21 2013

we just started our own blog site and a responsive theme design was actually my first choice. I had some problems using it so I switched to a different one. But, I’m still planning to use it someday once I’ve learned enough info about it and I sure hope that this post is not really what it seems to be.

Demetrio Apr 21 2013

Guys, for those of you attacking the guys character, calling it a joke etc. grow the f*** up. He makes some valid points which clearly some of you are having problems addressing, but resorting to name calling and ridicule frankly only cheapens the discussion. Thank you.

Demetrio Apr 21 2013

I’d also add one other consideration. One thing that’s been bothering me about a lot of responsive websites, is at larger screen sizes the websites end up looking like posters: text becomes tedious to read, and I’d argue it’s not an improved experience at all. Another misconception among some in the RWD community is that somehow white space is something bad, that needs to be filled with content, when any designer worth anything knows that an almost limitless amount of white space is a good thing-ask google.

So there are issues with RWD both on the small end, and on larger monitors. I have to say my personal take on RWD overall is that’s a lot of effort, time and money, for little to in some cases no improvement. So I think RWD faces some serious challenges if it’s going to ever become a standard.

Plato Griffin Apr 22 2013

Now a days, lots of gadgets, systems and browsers that need to work with our site develops.Responsive web design represents a essential shift in how we build websites for the decade to come.Creating a responsive web design goes way beyond arranging things in a way that won’t compromise the look of our website in different screen sizes.

Matthew Shuey Apr 23 2013

RWD costs a lot more than standard websites which will result in clients purchasing more and more RWD templates. Not sure if this is a good thing.

Having a responsive website design can have its own set of challenges, however, the future of web design looks bright with many such emerging technologies that are set to revolutionize the web. The focus however will be on developing better websites which promote interaction and engage the attention of online visitors.

Like the days of old until now, a good tailor will make the right fit. No difference with web design. Rob, the article is actually very well written, you just may not like the opinion. The future will cater to standardizing mobile devices and custom-developing designer sites. At least the ones that can afford it ;).

Robert Apr 24 2013

Personal computers will always have a place. I can’t stand to use the tiny phones except for watching a video or checking emails

Craig Apr 28 2013

Responsive web design is the present. It makes it hard when mobile browsing is so slow in Australia

I would like to suggest a middle path – responsive design for NOW – then analyse the stats on just where and what info your mobile/tablet users are accessing – use this data to help you build a true “mobile” site alongside your desktop site – and I still think this is the right approach even if this article was written as an April fools’ joke….

Steven Apr 28 2013

You are completely missing the point about RWD.
Why are you speaking about performance? RWD is about DESIGN, and how things change depending on screen’s resolutions.

Do you know you can do RWD and also focus on performance by only loading scripts and heavy images on large screens and fast connections?

It doesn’t have to be one way or the other.


I think the main problem I have with your article is how you compare “poorly implemented Responsive websites” with “slimmed down Dedicated mobile sites”

Responsive and Dedicated are two strategies, that can be implemented with more or less of a performance focus. No one is saying it’s easy, but the growing complexity of our user’s devices is just the nature of our industry situation.

I agree with many of the people that highlighted the fact that a dedicated mobile site will be a really poor solution except in situations like when a site can afford to ignore a huge portion of current and future devices, or when a company has the time and resources to design and create content for dedicated sites for multiple current and future devices.

But of course, no one is negating the fact that if one of these strategies really makes sense for your client. Go with that. But the idea that Responsive always goes hand in hand with “poor performance” is entirely false.

Also, you compared the implementation of Responsive sites, to Native Apps. I don’t think this comparison is appropriate.

Our industry has to become more performance focused. A great, thoughtful and appropriate Responsive web design is also not easy.
We all agree on that. But we are capable of doing it. And it has been done.

Brad Frost does cover all of your points beautifully. Perhaps a response to his response would be interesting?

Paul Beard Apr 29 2013

Mobile-specific sites have always been slow, notoriously clumsy and poorly designed. That’s because there are a lot of crap designers out there making websites. Some of them are now making crap responsive websites. That doesn’t mean RWD is in itself bad. There are some fantastic examples out there that go against everything said in this article. The author clearly has no understanding of what RWD actually involves (and it strikes me that they have a vested interest in ‘m dot’ and app development and are somewhat afraid by RWD… and that’s why they’re lashing out).

awesome May 01 2013

haha!.. responsive design is intended for any screen size.. not because its a mobile, it is because most people now have devices that could open websites. Now all the devices have different screen size.

Abbasi May 02 2013

i am not agree with you…
Responsive Web Design is the Future,
Devices are enhancing with time to time….
daily technology increases at every second ….
no matter what the size has the website…

Dave Markivee May 02 2013

The main point of the article was to compare and contrast RWD with the separate source/CSS methodology of creating websites and the pitfalls of each, regardless of the title of the article. Josh you make a lot of good points and I definitely am better for reading the article. To the people who added “constructive” comments (you know who you are), kudos. That’s what it’s all about, collaboration and solutions. To the people who have nothing but negative or even ignorant comments (and EVERYONE knows who you are) I say that perhaps if you spent less time making yourselves feel better by ranting about how far off this article is, and spent more of that time working on your own solution for the inherent problems of developing for the various platforms out there, you might actually come up with something that people might want to use that serves the general public well, is efficient, downloads quickly, and doesn’t take a whole lot of extra time to code, and people would actually like you. In other words, to the people who are so worried that this was an April Fools joke, get a life and quit trying to boost your already depressed state of mind by discrediting others attempts to make people think about the ever-evolving nature of the web. Try reading what the article is actually saying and you might get it. That is, if you are not too busy posting other negative comments on every other article out there that you “think” you are an expert on. Be part of the solution, not the problem.

Jordan Payne May 02 2013

I’m not sure if this has already been mentioned but I think this article overlooks the fact that from a resource perspective, you are only required to update content once with RWD ultimately saving time and money.

The only other observation I would make is that while RWD may well lead to comparable page weights across devices – that’s not to say that the page weight is by default unacceptable on mobile devices.

Based on the data provided from Akamai the page load times were under 5 seconds… isn’t that generally pretty acceptable?

Kreativ Font May 05 2013

I’m in the middle of planning the responsive feature for my in house developed WordPress theme that I already use on 3 websites. Unit this article I was convinced that RWD is the way to go, but now I don’t know … Every point in this article makes sense so I have to read some more before making a final decision …

Anyway thanks for this great RWD reasearch …

Rod Enriquez May 09 2013

Has anyone actually ever claimed or written or said that RWD is ‘THE’ future??? I don’t think so. Though it certainly is the current trend. But I don’t think it’s considered to be ‘THE’ future. Simply because when they claim it to be as such, they would also claim that no possibilities of development will ever come on web design! Which is just impossible. Development in Design comes hand in hand with development in Technology. Never forget that.

Chuck Clark May 10 2013

I’m a fan of responsive design for many sites, but I’d be unlikely to use it for an ecommerce site because of the issues pointed out above.

Blackbam May 14 2013

RWD in a broader interpretation of the term just means to me, that we have to take care of more “different” devices visiting a Website.

For a long term most of the Websites were just built for desktop computers. Now you HAVE TO make your websites compatible for mobile devices, because there are so many. And in the future the heterogenity of devices will even grow further.

So I suppose, some kind of responsiveness IS the future. But the techniques how you do it and the understanding of responsiveness in general will evolve (and probably deal with the problems mentioned here).

I like your point mentioned here and my point of view is there won’t be a solution, methodology, tool, technique or even design style will win future forever. They will all become their history. Just enjoy current fun and wave. That’s what we call “Fashion” and people need to track with along the way.

Chris May 16 2013

It will be interesting to see more and more sites designed and intended solely for mobile devices like the “Google Now” example mentioned here…

Perhaps in a decade or so it will be hard to find anyone that designs for the “big screens” that are 13″ and up!?

caleb May 17 2013

I never liked flash and only learned the basics. Responsive design makes sense though same speed / size or not.

Edwin May 23 2013

Fox and the grapes if you ask me. A lot of people (particularly large web dev agencies weighed down by IP protected “processes”) are used to doing things the old way. They dont have time to learn new things or adopt new processes. If they can do things the old way forever without ever having to learn a new thing, and make cash then great. But the web is all about embracing new things as they come up. RWD has been coming up for a while now. If you don’t want to embrace new ways as a web developer, then you will surely die inside. This is not an article I expected to see on six revisions.

Darryn Cooke May 24 2013

I clicked to read this article to see if the content could make the point the headline did, and it did not. As many have already covered these I will not re-hash them but this reminds me of the flash v. no-flash, WP v. Drupal et. al., GIF v. PNG, PHP v. JSP, etc., etc., etc..

All the arguments had always pulled from the worst of the web, and that has always been easy since there are billions of sites out there. I would say that 70-90% are atrocious by any means and standards. The point I am trying to make is that all arguments failed to just acknowledge that all these are just one of many tools and ways to address a problem. Some are executed better than others and the tool is no more the problem than the strategy/vision behind what is being created.

Saying WP is not a CMS is just plain wrong, and I would advise you to read up on the definition of a CMS. Whether it’s better than the other options is debatable and not here. Same for RWD. It’s what it is now and is an option, and a good one, for current web design standards.

I, for one, don’t think responsive is going anywhere. I also don’t view web design anymore from a phone/tablet/desktop mindset. I view it from a viewport mindset and gaps in resolution, 480px, 768px, 1024px, > 1024px.

If I were designing a native app then of course my approach would be different as I could work in mobile and touch screen functionality, plus now user behavior is different and specific (I don’t differentiate much from user behavior for a website from different devices. It’s still a website that is trying to get clicks, turn sales, gather emails, increase enrollment, etc.). What gets lost often in these types of arguments of what is better is that the discussion revolves around WEBSITES not APPS. Websites have very specific strategies that must be addressed. APPS for the most part serve a specific function. I never discuss both in the same topic because they are inherently very different. From conceptualization to execution, they both take 2 very different paths.

Standards keep evolving every 5-7 years so the next set will, IMO, be touch screen friendly (since that is the future). Heck they may even be eye glass friendly.

Modan Farhan May 25 2013

Currently responsive website is available source to tackle with PC,smartphone and tablet web users with one website, the author talking about the future technology it is not available currently so responsive only option for us, yes their are some pitfall of this method but we have to manage it till than other option not available.

Sally May 27 2013

Great article. Responsive design is definitely the thing right now, but it’s always important to keep an eye on everything else that’s going on!

Nathan Brook May 27 2013

Nice informative article. Some of the suggested solutions for the issues will be useful for me.

Louis May 27 2013

The provblem with responsive sites is that they do not take into account the browsing experience of user. When we are at home and have time to browse we will browse from our 10’tablet or to our descktop. However when we are in a rush, on taxi, on street, … we will browse trough a smartphone. Therefore we do not look at same information. With an mobile site we need to get to the point ! Users do not have time look at bad responsive sites full of information we do not have to read anyway !

Dave Moss May 30 2013

Are you a developer? This article is silly. Responsive sites can be implemented a number of ways. If the site is too slow on a mobile device then you are just doing it wrong. You should fire your developer. If it doesn’t look good. You are doing it wrong. You should fire your designer. It is not a question of native vs. responsive web. You should have a responsive design if you have a website. At the very least change the viewport size. If you can afford it, create a native application as well. If you can’t, don’t. If you don’t have enough money to create a native app, but you have some money create a phone gap app.

Anthony Russo Jun 05 2013

I agree Dave, responsive design will look excellent and perform that way as well if it is implemented correctly. Obviously there are times when responsive design may not be the most appropriate solution for the client. There is no solution that fits all. I think that its wrong to speculate that responsive design isn’t the future just because Flash failed after being introduced so long ago.

From the programmer’s view : responsive design is a must for simplicity .. of course from this view, page loading time is not an issue, we care more about the output than how the output is delivered..

but how with end user’s, shareholder’s view.. as a programmer, when i am browsing the internet from my tablet, smartphone, i want the web to be fast, only focusing on what i want to read..etc.. using responsive design on websites really easing the programmers only.. not towards customers.

Dan Roman Jun 23 2013

Dude, responsive web design = bloated web design and in this era, where the demand for code is so high, I sincerely doubt the developers will find time to make all websites responsive ! I am one myself and can tell you, I will rather develop for mobiles, in parallel with the main, than making the main responsive.
Now, there are a couple of nerds, around, with to much time on their hands that will say “oh man but responsive is so easy”…right..when you speak about a small little website. But when it comes to maintaining and long term developing something, situation changes. Multiple banners, different pages with different layouts and so on, to make all that responsive will take you 3x more time and I doubt someone will pay so much extra for it. Is as simple as that. Responsive is just a trend these days but it simply can’t stick, as everything gets way to bloated. The mobile dedicated websites will, for a while be used for mobile platforms but I believe in the future, screens and everything will advance, so that there won’t be a need for design adaptation. That hurts the branding too. I personally watch full websites on mobile and when I get mobile variants or responsive, instead of the main, i get pissed off. I tend to think, most of the users feel the same. They don’t wanna look at minimalistic stuff, for the sake of speed. Ask them.

Dan Roman @ ^^ awesome Jun 23 2013

Many screen sizes not always mean many resolutions ! There are phones with full HD resolutions already so, your point is nonsense.

OTOH, I tend to believe the web will be brosed from TV’s, more and more that will have bigger screens, while the mobile devices will have comparable resolutions. So, again, responsive web design makes no sense. The m. mobile also, will fall slowly. There is simply no time for all the tricks, when the devices will start sharing same resolutions. It makes no sense.

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