A mobile-first design strategy can help organizations offer PC and mobile device users a better Web-browsing experience, according to IT industry analysts. And responsive design practices can help organizations get there without the time and hassle and potential expense of redundant coding.
A mobile-first design strategy can offer PC and mobile users alike a better browsing experience.
"The world is going to go responsive," predicted Peter Sheldon, a principal analyst focusing on e-commerce technologies at Gartner Research Inc., a Stamford, Conn.-based IT analyst firm. "It's inevitable." Companies that want to devise a Web content strategy should incorporate mobile-first principles like responsive design into their toolkits.
Responsive Web design principles and technology allow companies to design websites that properly display on various devices regardless of software, hardware or browser.
According to Sheldon, responsive Web design is becoming increasingly important as smartphones, tablets and other handheld devices proliferate. But responsive design should be considered just one part of a larger Web content strategy. Here are some key takeaways to keep in mind as your organization makes the switch to responsive and "mobile first" design strategies:
Design a cohesive Web content strategy up front. Responsive design is a component of a larger Web content management strategy. But, Sheldon emphasized, have a plan for your Web content beyond responsive design. One question to consider is whether the company needs both a Web design strategy and a mobile app. And remember not to make piecemeal decisions. It's important to create a cohesive plan.
Involve stakeholders from the outset. Responsive design isn't about technology platforms or even display on a device. It's about prioritizing the content a company believes is important for each environment.
For more on responsive Web design
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Choosing a mobile-first strategy
Mobile content management can produce ROI
A mobile view will necessarily force decisions about which content should display in smaller screens, and this requires key stakeholders to join the conversation, not just developers and designers. Involve the business side, marketing and designers in meetings, so objectives and branding mission are on the same page. "Content owners and the business needs to make decisions about the breakpoints you choose for how pages will display on a desktop and transition to mobile devices," Sheldon said.
Be realistic about ROI. Initiatives like responsive design often cost more money, can strain in-house development resources and expertise, and can protract a project timeline. As companies make the business case for responsive design to the business side, they should pitch the long-term ROI, not short-term gains. It may cost more in terms of personnel and budget up front.
Site performance. There are performance implications to using responsive design. Creating a site that requires high-resolution images to be downloaded over 3G networks onto mobile devices will create performance problems. Poor design choices can create real latency problems.