The vast majority of your target market will check you out online before deciding to buy/register/join/refer/like/friend… essentially have anything at all to do with you. So along with all your direct sales efforts, your website is a critical factor in growing your business — a positive user experience will move prospects closer to saying “Yes, I want to deal with this organization.” I often talk about the importance of good content on your website to inform, educate and persuade your market, but just as important is the ease in which the user can engage with your website; whether they be at home on a laptop or in a restaurant on their smartphone.
What is Responsive Design?
Responsive Design (or Responsive Web Design, or RWD) is preparing your web content to provide the best possible experience for all user devices: desktop, laptop, netbook, tablet and smartphone. It’s very technical, but essentially your website queries the receiving device to understand the display restraints. (Not a good idea to dump a tractor trailer load of fertilizer onto a half-ton pick-up… not to say that you’ve got a lot of crap on your website!) A RWD website can then choose the appropriate web template and content, and even scale photos to fit within those variable constraints. The user gets a browsing experience (aesthetic, pertinent and fast-loading) that befits the device. One properly designed (i.e. responsive web designed) website can serve all users and help you to maximize the results from any online or inbound marketing tactics.
RWD goes beyond the properly selected and sequenced bits and bytes to the actual content being displayed. It is not just a technical achievement, but also a marketing and communications strategy. With the limited display and longer loading times, mobile device users don’t want superfluous information. They won’t navigate through a lot of “fertilizer” to get to their desired content or task; they’ll simply leave your website in search of another supplier who can cut through the crap more quickly. So it pays to consider what information is actually important to the user, what is the key message you want them to understand, what are the primary website functions they need to access. In essence, what is going to make their user experience a positive one, given the constraints of limited viewing area and slower downloading times?
Why Should I Care?
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Because the whole point of having a website is to further your business: impart your message, position your organization as a (thought) leader, expose your brand, and advance prospects through your “sales” funnel. If people cannot easily access the information on your website then you’ve immediately and automatically failed. Equally as important of course, is having worthy content. If the information on your website is bull fertilizer then you have subsequently and indirectly failed.
Making it easy for your key market to access content that they will find interesting and of value, and then leveraging that favourable connection with your organization, is the ultimate goal of your online presence. To achieve this, companies are using content-rich websites, blogs and social media. Google is now content-centric in its ranking of websites, so being found via search engines is also directly related to what you have on your website and how easy it is to access it.
Giovanni Calabro wrote a recent article on the Content Marketing Institute’s website that astutely observed:
“As more companies behave like publishers and rely on content to connect with customers, they must think about how to design an engaging content-based experience, from full-screen desktop to small-screen smartphone — without having to reinvent the experience with each new device that comes around.”
He went on to say that “The best designs pull input from a multi-disciplinary team composed of content strategists, designers, developers and marketing technologists.” (I think he must have been referring to the PROSAR team… just sayin’) You can read his full article here: http://www.contentmarketinginstitute.com/2012/08/is-responsive-design-right-for-your-content-marketing-strategy/
What Should I Do?
If you already have a content-based strategy in place for you website and online branding then it is important to facilitate people getting that content and your corporate message. (If you are not already employing a content-based strategy, wake up and smell the dung!) If your target audience is primarily using desktops and laptops then you may be fine. But if your audience is also using tablets and mobile devices then you should start including them and incorporate a responsive design strategy.
No one is immune; PROSAR is currently revising our website to better accommodate different mobile devices, and we are also developing more content to flesh out the resource we provide online. It is an ongoing process that shouldn’t be ignored. Developing a new strategy and creating a website that considers all user devices can be expensive, but doing nothing may end up being far more costly — chances are that the user you lose online, you will never gain as a customer.
You may want to read Natalie’s post on 3 Things to Worry About When ‘Going mobile,’ or Edi’s 8 Simple Tips for Mobile Website Design. Or, you may want share your thoughts regarding RWD; leave a comment and add to the valuable content on the Web.