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Sworn Enemies Nesting DollsJeremy Girard writing for Smashing Magazine uses a unique case study to explain why selling responsive is so important for clients, even for a client who reported to have only 2% of its traffic from mobile phones:

Two percent of traffic from mobile devices is so low a figure that, when I first saw it, I questioned its accuracy.

This particular company does not market or sell to the general public. It is a B2B company that works with a relatively small group of distributors and contractors from a defined geographic area. The client attributed the low mobile traffic to this demographic, which would access the website from an office desk, not on the road with a phone.

I agreed that mobile figures would likely be lower for this demographic than for a typical audience (for the websites we manage, 30% of traffic comes from mobile visitors, although some websites get over 50%) — but not this low. I felt that something else was happening here, and my gut told me that part of the reason was that the website worked so poorly on mobile devices. I suspected that the lack of a mobile experience kept mobile visitors away.

I did not share this theory with the client at the time, but in the year since the new design went live, the mobile traffic figures have climbed, from 2 to 17%. Granted, that is still lower than what many other websites get these days, but it is a sizeable jump and cannot be ignored.

Demand for a mobile experience was there, but the traffic didn’t reflect this because of an outdated design.

Girard also points out how responsive design is not the same as creating a mobile design and shouldn’t be presented in that way to clients. Instead, it’s important to understand what responsive design really encompasses, a design methodology that should work well with devices of all sizes, whether they be phones, phablets, tablets, netbooks, laptops, desktops, or a beautiful 27″ iMac.