The Argument for Non-Responsive Design

March 5, 2018
I'm the IT guy for a software company in Kingston, TN but the scope of my job extends into eLearning Development and Customer Service. I've been working with Adobe Captivate since 2016. I love solving problems myself and other users encounter in Captivate and pushing the software to "find out what it can do". I'm currently working on my Master's Degree in Information Technology Management.
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IT Specialist\eLearning Developer\Customer Service Rep
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The Argument for Non-Responsive Design

I'm the IT guy for a software company in Kingston, TN but the scope of my job extends into eLearning Development and Customer Service. I've been working with Adobe Captivate since 2016. I love solving problems myself and other users encounter in Captivate and pushing the software to "find out what it can do". I'm currently working on my Master's Degree in Information Technology Management.
Guide 13 posts
Followers: 15 people
March 5, 2018

Responsive design is a hot topic in the world of web-design, and with good reason no one wants to open a website on their smartphone and scroll horizontally back and forth and vertically to read page’s content or to find the navigation buttons to go to the next page, and the responsive design trend is taking off in the world of eLearning Design as well.

The new responsive design tools and work flows are exciting for elearning authors and many new comers (and some veterans) to the field can see no reason why anyone would consider, much less build, a non-responsive design but there are many instances where a non-responsive design is not only a valid option but the correct choice.

The planned implementation of the course will often determine whether or not the content should to be a non-responsive design. In some instances a client may intend to use the course in a controlled environment such as a computer lab in a prison system. In an instance such as this where there is no consideration for mobile then a non-responsive design is acceptable or even appropriate. Secure or controlled environments aren’t the only instances where a non-responsive design is useful though.

Because Adobe Captivate allows publishing as scalable HTML5 you will sometimes find this a better choice that a true responsive design using breakpoints or fluid boxes. If you author enough content for enough clients you will eventually encounter content that, by its very nature, only works well in a horizontal format whether it’s viewed on a 24-inch monitor or a 5-inch smart phone. In these instances a non-responsive design published as scalable html5 may be the perfect solution. The same approach can be applied to any content that will always be presented horizontally by the LMS regardless of the screen orientation on a mobile device.

If you find yourself authoring a course for use at a school you may find that the administrators and teachers want their students taking the course on computers or tablets but want to discourage the students from taking it on their smartphones. A non-responsive design published as scalable HTML5 is my approach here as well. While this won’t make it impossible the students to complete their course on a phone it will make it far easier to complete on a computer or tablet.

Another thing to consider when deciding whether you want to build a responsive or non-responsive project is whether or not you intend to use Flash in the project. Most newer mobile devices don’t support Flash and using Flash in your project makes the responsive vs. non-responsive debate moot

In conclusion, the next time you are presented with a project don’t fall into the trap of assuming a responsive design is the correct one because it’s the “in” thing (and don’t assume non-responsive is correct either) without reviewing both the implementation and target audience of the course. Both responsive and non-responsive designs have advantages and neither is right for every project.

Comments (7)
2018-06-05 22:50:10
2018-06-05 22:50:10

Lieve, thank you for the correction. Like a lot of people, I often use the term Flash to represent both Flash Player and stand alone AIR apps What I meant was, Flash Player is going away in 2020, and, if you want to future proof your web-based content stay away from anything that will rely on Flash Player.

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2018-06-05 21:43:33
2018-06-05 21:43:33

Do not confuse Flash application, which is still very alive with the Flash Player which will disappear. Most games are still created with Flash, ad AIR apps are based on it. Too much confusion everywhere.

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2018-06-05 20:01:47
2018-06-05 20:01:47

Remember, Google is killing support for Flash in Chrome by 2020 and I have noticed Flash being blocked by default on more and more websites by all of the “big” browsers. If you want to future proof your content, stay away from SWF.

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2018-06-05 19:17:10
2018-06-05 19:17:10

It is not wise to use SWF output anymore, but that has no link with being reponsive or not. 90% of the files I create are non-responsive ut rescalable HTML. Other tools label those as responsive but that is not the case.

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2018-06-05 19:10:14
2018-06-05 19:10:14

I usually encounter hysteric reaction nowadayw when I mention using SWF files.

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2018-05-30 10:19:47
2018-05-30 10:19:47

Yes, we have to be careful when designing to choose responsive or non-responsive design approach before starting the work on the project.

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2018-03-06 18:56:38
2018-03-06 18:56:38

I have been posting a similar idea in this post https://elearning.adobe.com/2017/11/tough-choice-breakpoints-or-fluid-boxes/
However I miss an important argument in your post: not every course is suited to be ‘consumed’ on a phone, from a pedagogical point of view. I have been a professor (university college) for many years, and see phones to be fine for small JIT courses. The needed environment needed for in-depth courses will never be a phone, not only because of the limitations of the hardware.
When talking with Captivate users (as I did at Learning Technologies in London) less than a quarter of the developers are really busy with responsive courses. These were all European developers, mostly for companies. Personally I publish often to Scalable HTML, or develop directly for phones when that is the client’s requirement. That is a real situation, rather different from what the ‘responsive design’ seems to suggest.

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