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The Rise Of Responsive: How To Improve The User Experience

By Anthony Overkamp

I originally wrote this article for CMO Magazine, where it originally appeared in April, 2014. The article is reprinted with permission in its entirety below. Enjoy.

Nothing is more frustrating than trying to read a company’s Web site on your phone and having to scroll up and down, zoom in and out, and strain your eyes until you find the right information–especially when you’re in a hurry.

Without a doubt, more people today are forgoing their desktops and using their mobile devices as their main access point to the Web. This isn’t just a trend--it is the norm. Last year, it was widely predicted that by 2014, mobile device usage would surpass desktop usage. That prediction became a reality this past January when mobile devices accounted for 55 percent of Internet usage in the United States, as reported by comScore. If more than half of your Web site traffic is coming from users on mobile devices, you need to be sure that you are reaching these visitors (and potential customers) and providing content consistent with that of your desktop site.

Sure, your site may be compatible with a mobile browser, but is it responsive? Responsive design is a methodology that optimizes a Web site for any device–whether a smartphone, tablet, or desktop–so that every possible audience member can access essential content as efficiently and easily as possible. For marketing professionals, opting for a responsive Web site is the most effective way to ensure message consistency and deliver the most important information to your shareholders, no matter what devices they are using.

If your site is not yet responsive, don’t panic. Now is as good a time as ever to evaluate the content on your Web site to determine the best approach to employing a responsive design. Here are a few tips to get you started.

• Begin with your content strategy: Responsive design may not always be right for every project. Because responsive design focuses more on how to alter the presentation of content and its design, rather than excluding or including additional content for mobile, site owners must take a good look at their content strategy. Review your existing content and pinpoint what is absolutely essential to your site. Don’t be afraid to cut “fluff” from your site if it isn’t supporting your main content goals.

When evaluating content for inclusion on mobile, you may find that it does not even have merit to appear on your desktop site. This is a key argument for the “mobile before desktop” approach–you’ll be able to truly refine your content and make sure the “cream of the crop” is out there. Less is more.

• Determine clear site goals: When users come to your site looking for specific information, such as a phone number or address, they want to find that information with as little effort as possible. And if they can’t find it, they’ll move on to your competitor. Google’s Think Insights estimated that if users cannot find what they are looking for on a mobile site and become frustrated, there is a 61 percent chance that they will immediately jump to another site. The more intuitive the mobile site’s interactions, navigation, and overall message are, the better the user experience.

• Team with IT: Not every marketing professional is tech-savvy, meaning a good relationship with IT is important when creating a responsive site. IT, whether in-house or outsourced, is more aware of what can be done from a technical standpoint for full-site functionality, while marketing spearheads decisions regarding the site’s content. There must be communication between the two departments to ensure a successful implementation of a mobile site that is both technically sound and in line with the company’s content strategy.

Benefits Of Responsive
Once your responsive site is in place, you’ll realize benefits in both the short and long term. In the short term, you’ll provide a better user experience; your audience, which includes potential customers, will be able to access the content that they are seeking no matter the device. There is no need for them to download an app or wait until they get to a desktop to read your latest blog post–content is at their fingertips, and they will thank you for that.

In the long term, your site will be much easier to maintain (you’ll only need to manage one set of content for all devices) and flexible enough to meet the needs of the continuously changing mobile landscape. While the site may need some minor tweaks, you’ll save time and money by eliminating the need to design an entirely new version of your site for that next hot device.

Before you embark on your journey toward a responsive site, remember to keep an open mind. Responsive design can take some time and require additional costs in the beginning, but in the long run, the payback is well worth the effort.

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