Mobile is dramatically changing consumer behavior. Today the concept of ‘wasted’ time is increasingly being replaced with the notion of ‘found time,’ due to the proliferation of smartphone use. Hours that previously slipped away while waiting in line, are being reclaimed and becoming increasingly productive. Consumers are catching up with email, reading articles, browsing for products and even making purchases; in fact, almost “38% of our daily media interactions occur on a smartphone. There is a great upside for businesses to this changing consumer behavior–but like all changes it comes with a catch—companies must deliver sites that are very mobile-friendly.
Having a mobile-friendly site is the first step in developing a mobile strategy and although most companies recognize they need to employ one, many are tentative about the best approach. There is much debate about the best solution—most often between an m dot site (m-site ) or a customized app, or perhaps both? Although it is easy to focus on the technology platform, technology isn’t the right staring point. Organizations need to focus inward and look at their core business to determine what the best experience would be for their customers.
Mobile is a key consumer touch point and it shouldn’t be treated in a silo or an ‘offering.’ To deliver the best in class mobile experience and one that fits with your organization’s goals, the online interface needs to be flexible, fast and optimized. It will also need to be as equally proactive as it is responsive. For example, organizations that actively email customers special offers must be prepared to have these customers open and interact on their site with a smartphone or tablet.
Organizations that are courting savvy consumers using smartphones and tablets must deliver websites that are equally as smart—sites with intuitive navigation, the right font sizes and automatically adjusted visuals. Forward thinking companies recognize mobile is here to stay and they want to deliver a scalable and maybe even future proof site. Companies that are looking beyond the technology and are focusing on the user and the mobile ‘mind shift’ are increasingly adopting responsive web site design because of its ability to deliver a best-in-class user experience.
Responsive web design (RWD) hits it out of the park because it is device agnostic—it works equally well on a desktop, tablet or smartphone. Everything happens ‘behind the scenes’ so sites are adaptive and the consumer doesn’t have to download an application or select a mobile site. There is no need to search for the ‘desktop version of the site’ because with responsive web design there is only one version of a company’s website with all of the content and features included.
With thousands of screens in marketplace, all with different dimensions and resolutions there is a clear advantage to having one site that can be optimized for both multi-screen viewing and mobile users. With responsive web design consumers are delivered the deep content and functionality they have come to expect from a desktop version plus all of the ‘extras’ consumers rely on from a mobile site such as location information, mapping, click-to-call (dialing), and speedy site loads.
From an organization’s point of view, responsive web design delivers a mobile solution and a multi-screen solution. It works equally well on a smartphone, tablet or desktop because the design is flexible and it is able to deliver the most advantageous experience to the user, ‘customized’ to the device being used. “Media queries” determine what resolution of device it needs to be served on and the responsive design automatically renders flexible images and fluid grids to correctly size content to fit the screen. It’s beauty in the online world—a site needs only to be built once and it works seamlessly across hundreds of different screens.
Users enjoy the responsive design because it effortlessly delivers content—the bigger the screen the more the user sees—the smaller the screen the less there is in their visual field. You can try it out for yourself by visiting one of the RWD sites designed by us—TELUS’ Corporate Social Responsibility or Machine-to-Machine. Notice the difference on your desktop/laptop, smartphone or tablet and watch how the layout seamlessly shrinks from three columns, to two columns, to a singular column of content to match the device it is used on.
From sharing content, getting directions, to registration or purchases; if it can be done on a website via a desktop, the consumer wants the convenience and ease of doing it on their mobile. With responsive web design it is possible because optimizing for mobile isn’t an offshoot—there is no replication of design, duplication of SEO or doubling up on analytics on two sites, instead it re-engineers your core site to be the best of the best on a smartphone, tablet or desktop.
Some additional benefits delivered by responsive web design are:
- One site for all needs—literally “leaving no device behind”
- One site to update, manage, monitor and optimize (which is cost-efficient)
- SEO benefits –ranks higher because the site is optimized for mobile and desktop and anything in between
- It is endorsed by Google as an industry best practice
- The design is fantastic for content, content and yes more content as it lends itself extremely well to being searched, referenced and shared
Responsive web design is the superlative, but quality comes with some caveats. In general a RWD is customized, complex, and it has extra layers involved in development so it may take a bit more time to do it right. However, the long-term cost benefit ratio of managing one site and optimizing the customer experience often outweighs the initial investment.
While a custom responsive web design may be what your organization desires there may be time or budget constraints that put it out of reach or perhaps the customer experience that you are delivering is better served by an m-site or app.
Going ‘mobile’ or ‘multi-screen’ is a journey and not a destination. It won’t happen overnight but organizations wanting to capitalize on the mobile experience should start with the basics and build on them. Delivering an optimized mobile site means “better experiences which mean more conversions, more engagement and a better chance the user will walk away with a positive feeling about your brand, service or product.”
Seize the opportunity to connect more closely with your customers by mastering mobile. We’ll continue our review of how companies can optimize website interfaces with a review of m-sites, apps and performance based web design. If you don’t know where to start this might be the right time to invest in some market expertise to help point you in the right direction.
Photo credit: Johan Larsson