4 tips to ease the transition to responsive Web design
October 31, 2012
Matt Fiore is principal designer at Siteworx
By Matt Fiore
As companies and organizations grow and mature, many look to add mobile sites, mobile applications and Web apps to expand their digital presence and to engage with their customers.
However, keeping up with so many pieces of the digital pie can be time-consuming and expensive. The responsive design methodology provides a solution to these important concerns.
By adopting responsive design, your brand can greatly enhance its identity due to the methodology’s focus on consistency among content and valuable user experience (see column).
Responsive design can be a significant undertaking, but not an impossible one.
To help your company or organization get started, here are four tips to ease the transition to responsive design:
1. Develop a content strategy
Content prioritization is always the first step in responsive design. You should analyze each piece of content by asking: What information does the user need on their smartphone, tablet and desktop? How will they use each device to access the information?
Content must be carefully chosen and prioritized by focusing on the smallest screen resolution. Once the content for the smallest resolution has been defined, designers can add features and content as device screen size increases.
What is the best content strategy? To ensure the implementation of responsive design is as seamless as possible, choose one of three content strategies.
The first strategy is to work from the smallest device to the largest – generally smartphone to desktop – and to build on content based on the user experience that is inherent to each device.
The opposite approach starts with a fully-featured desktop resolution and works down to mobile.
The third option is to begin with a mid-sized tablet resolution. The strategy that fits best will be one that addresses all the relevant screen resolutions, and presents the user with the most cohesive and consistent experience across all devices.
2. Understand the risks
When undertaking a responsive approach, it is important to understand that there may be challenges ahead as you begin to create and implement your strategy.
While it is easy to focus on the numerous rewards of responsive design, be sure to consider one of the main risks before you get started: Can you handle the complexity?
Responsive design can be complicated to implement, because, in some cases, you are overhauling and re-launching all mobile and Web properties – sites and apps – at once.
Once responsive design becomes a part of your long-term design, the short-term costs and complexity can eventually be minimized. Furthermore, responsive design can decrease both code and content maintenance in addition to ongoing content curation costs.
3. Facilitate cross-team collaboration
Instead of your Web development and app development teams working in silos, they will be working together with the responsive design approach.
Delivering a responsive site within a project timeline requires the mobile and desktop versions to be fully designed.
Creating the necessary steps for tablet versions requires close collaboration from designers and developers through an agile prototyping phase.
Communication between designers and developers is vital to the success of your responsive design implementation.
Due to the amount of collaboration required, everyone must buy-in to this new approach from the very beginning.
Key stakeholders need to assemble a multi-disciplinary team that includes developers, designers, marketers, search engine optimization experts and copywriters.
This multi-disciplinary team approach is most effective at keeping communication channels open and creating the best responsive sites.
4. Consider the ROI of responsive design
A responsive approach can offer significant ROI across multiple levels.
With responsive design, customers will experience optimal messaging, design and function with the device of their choice. This plays a large role in brand loyalty because a superior customer experience can decrease a customer’s likelihood of searching for an alternative solution on the site of a competitor.
In addition to customer experience, a responsive approach improves SEO performance, so customers can find your business faster and more efficiently.
With a responsive approach, all views from all devices register to a single URL, funneling all link equity into one URL. This improves page rank and SEO performance.
Customer experience and SEO optimization are only a fraction of the benefits responsive design can yield.
Numerous other benefits, including more efficient implementations in the future, eliminating multiple codebases and Web content management systems, and a streamlined analytics process can also help justify the ROI of a responsive approach.
NOW THAT YOU have a better understanding of what will help your responsive design strategy work, consider taking the plunge.
By adopting the responsive design methodology, your company or organization can significantly enhance its online presence across all devices and channels, resulting in a superior user experience.
Matt Fiore is principal designer at Siteworx, Reston, VA. Reach him at .
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