To be or not to be – responsive or not…. Should responsive (adaptive) web design be the standard even when there may be user experience reasons to go with alternative web design standards?
Surprisingly, not many businesses (or their agencies…) know the answer and instead there seems to be a ‘sheep’ mentality where many jump on the band-wagon (or off the cliff!) of developing a responsive or adaptive site without really understanding if its the best approach for their business.
Fundamentally, I believe there are two important areas that should first be considered before the development of mobile for your brand; data and content.
Data, or rather the insights the data provides, will provide crucial information about how your customers or prospects are using your website and mobile site (if you have one in place) for content requirements; device and OS segmentation, location etc. A site audit will provide you with this information. The insights of such an audit may reveal that you require a phased approach to a longer term optimised web and mobile solution as the current web IA (information architecture) may have fundamental UX issues for example.
Content, whilst we know is a key area tend to overlook the importance. Typically what information are customers expecting when they use different devices. If they want in-depth information from your website but their mobile consumption is more about location based services or specific information or transacting, then rendering web content to a mobile request may not be appropriate and will only serve to irritate them as they have to scroll down until they find what they are looking for.
Looking at these two areas will already begin to point the way to the preferred solution for your customers with one of following 3 mobile SEO solutions:
Dynamic Serving, Responsive Web Design and Mobile URLs.
It must be emphasised, the argument of single URL vs multiple URLs is now redundant with Google introducing switchboard tags (Google can understand which site should appear when regardless of URL site structure) therefore responsive web design should not be championed because the assumption is that its better for SEO!
Adapted from mobile specialist Bryson Meunier, the following give you a guideline as to whether mobile URLs or dynamic serving are preferred options to responsive web design:
1. When the desktop doesn’t contain categories mobile searchers are looking for e.g. specific model types
2. When the desktop site doesn’t contain keywords mobile searchers are using e.g. you mobile searches may use the term ‘nearby’ which is less likely on laptop which doesn’t have GPRS
3. When responsive web design increases load time significantly
4. When target audience primarily use feature phones or when specific mobile features are required to complete task e.g. scanning or camera
5. When it prevents innovation that improves the user experience e.g. J P Morgan Chase mobile solution
The following chart from Bryson Meunier clearly visualises this:
The ideal mobile solution is a hybrid of responsive web design and mobile only pages, but that’s ideal not necessarily what’s best for your business. So, do you know which of the three your business has developed and if so is it the best for your customers?