Responsive Web Design in Africa: why it’s time to adapt

This post provides background and additional resources for my talk on Responsive Web Design in Africa. Last update: May 23, 2013.

I’ve seen a surprising amount of pushback on responsive design within the South African web community recently. The skepticism is mostly based on issues such as low smartphone share and high data costs in Africa, along with assumptions about “the mobile context” and how people supposedly have vastly different needs on mobile phones than they have on their desktops.

So, the purpose of this talk is to summarize the case for Responsive Web Design, and to argue that the reasons against using this approach in Africa don’t hold up. Smartphones and data access are exploding in Africa, so if we want to be Future Friendly, we don’t have a choice. We have to adapt.

The slides for the talk are below, although of course, some context gets lost without the voiceover. There are also embedded gifs and videos that obviously don’t play within Slideshare, so you’ll have to use your imagination on thoseā€¦


I cite the source for each quote, example, and data point on the applicable slide, but I thought it would be helpful to provide a brief list of Responsive Web Design resources here for easy reference.

For those who want to dig a little deeper on the data in Africa, here’s a list of the reports and presentations I found most useful:

Here’s an incomplete list of introductory articles to get you started on responsive design. These articles mainly touch on topics I bring up in the talk, like the reasons for adopting responsive design, performance issues, and RESS:

If you’re looking for responsive patterns, start here:

And here are some ideas for dealing with responsive images:

For more great resources on responsive design, see Jeremy Keith’s extensive list.

The point

My goal with this talk was not to say anything groundbreakingly new about Responsive Web Design. The goal was to urge designers and developers who work in developing regions to take responsive design seriously, and at the very least consider the approach for their next projects.

If you have any questions or comments (or are interested in having me come present this talk somewhere), please get in touch.

Responsive Web Design