At Open we identify and examine customer issues. At DNA we deliver on that thinking.

"We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them." - Albert Einstein


John Milmine December 2012
open responsive

If you haven't heard of it yet, you will soon. Any digital agency with a brain in their skulls will be bringing it up. Any employee looking for a promotion will be sending you articles, maybe even this one.

What is Responsive?

Responsive is not:

  • The next design trend (rounded corners are not back).
  • The tech guys getting excited about something we should definitely do cos it's important for vague inexplicable reason.

Responsive is:

Responsive is old school. Do you remember when your company's intranet was as wide as your screen? (Oh wait that's still true). That's responsive. Responsive matches the content area to the size of the screen, and unlike your intranet, not just necessarily to a big screen. Responsives' big push is shrinking the content area to small screens, and sadly it isn't as easy as reducing the font size.

Responsive's philosophy is all about content and context. Everything to anyone all the time or as the responsive community likes to say, 'publish once, ship everywhere'. It means we have to change the question from 'what do we want to say' to 'what do the users actually need to know'. There's no space for nice-to-haves, content prioritisation is critical, and user experience is more important than ever.

The opposite approach of only showing our contact details to mobiles is fundamentally flawed. Mobile users are not actually mobile (most of the time); they're sitting on the couch or in bed with a desktop two meters away. They definitely need more than just your address, they need access to all your content just as they would receive on their desktop. Mobile devices are becoming many people's primary device for using the internet, which means over time your 'mobile' website is going to be more important than your 'desktop' website.

Is responsive right for you?

Your content is a mess and needs an overhaul
If it's bad now, responsive won't fix it for you. It may be best to sort out your content before going to look at responsive, otherwise it can feel a bit overwhelming for stakeholders and will be more costly to deliver.

Transactional sites
Examples of this are TradeMe, internet banking, Facebook etc, sites where you interact, login or transact rather than just search and read. Although I'd like to be clear, responsive may still suit, however we've found that the interaction on mobile needs to considerably simpler and well thought through. The counter argument to this is that once you've simplified the interaction, maybe that's all desktop users really need as well. The other part of transactional sites is that you may need interaction with device APIs, like motion detectors, compasses, etc which HTML doesn't have the ability to do (yet).

When do you look at responsive?

Your mobile stats are greater than 5% and climbing.
If this is the case they're probably going to keep climbing. At any rate there are plenty of stats around the world showing mobile usage is not slowing down anytime soon.

If you're about to start a website re-design or re-build
It's a perfect time to set-up the foundation for responsive and start planning a roadmap for monitoring analytics, testing your audience's devices and enhancing your site to suit.

Your content is a mess and needs an overhaul
Yes, I know that this is also in the other list. It's the perfect time to have some better measures around which content is important and what's not. Responsive gives this process a new lens due to the need to fit your content on small screens. It may just be that your audience doesn't care about the ten page history on your company, or want to read every single one of your long biographies about the partners. Strange but true. Now is the time to re-prioritise what content users need to see, not what the partners would like to say.

Responsive is a timely conversation to be having, it allows you to consider your users rapidly changing needs and plan how to adapt to that. It also gives you a chance to stop, pause and consider just how well you have been doing in digital channels, until now anyway.


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