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Beyond “Responsive”

As December pushes on and signals the final days of 2014, I paused for a moment to look forward and really take stock of what Crescent will be building in 2015, and most of it revolves around the mobile experience.

Six in ten Canadians access the internet via their smartphones on a daily basis. At the same time, mobile phone ownership has increased to 57 per cent in Canada, well above the global average of 42 per cent*. With the smartphone becoming an increasingly important tool in Canadian life, marketers and technology must continually evolve in order to engage with captive audiences.

That notion of “captive audiences” is really the key point: Forgetting all technology; forgetting the need to do something or to be somewhere because that’s the “new thing”, it has always been about answering the same basic questions: who and where are the people I need to reach, and what value message do I need to relay to them so that they take the actions I want them to. So, as long as that is at the route of your strategic tactical plan (mobile or otherwise), you are on the right path.

At the end of this article, I invite you to read an article by Patrick Neeman on the Usability Counts blog that echos this thinking.

If, as in many cases (let’s not kid ourselves, the statistics are pretty convincing – and we see it everyday), your audience is mobile “enabled”, then yes, you absolutely do need to keep abreast of best practices in “mobile engagement”, so that you can make intelligent decisions about what tactic will best match the engagement profile of your audience (and your budget!).

Technology and communications seem to change so rapidly that it’s hard to know when to invest and jump in. In the last 3-5 years alone we’ve moved from desktop + mobile sites, to adaptive design to responsive design, and now I would argue that we are moving the way of app experiences for mobile and in a sense almost shifting back to that notion of a desktop site + a mobile experience.

Let’s review:

Mobile Sites: Remember the days of “”, where the “m” at the beginning of the URL signified that you wanted to load the mobile version of the site? Those sites were often built as two separate and distinct sites with content publishers carefully selecting what functions and material was made available on each (the desktop site and the mobile site).

Adaptive Sites: Then came adaptive sites. These sites shared a common content database but the layout changed based on the screen size that was detected to one of the pre-fixed (designed) layouts, of which there were generally between two and four. With high levels of customization, you could still achieve a subset of content destine for publication in the mobile layouts versus the desktop version.

Responsive Sites: The advent of fluid grid systems dramatically changed the ability and access (for many organizations) to build sites that were “automatically” optimized for viewing on different screen sizes. Also, the way sites look and feel, navigation structures, and how we consume information (the trend toward bite size nuggets of content) have shifted as a result of this technology and the array of devices we use to consume information.

Apps: Smartphone apps took off as they enabled you to tap into the functions of a phone (like GPS, the camera, etc.) to further enhance or create an experience.  But I would argue they were originally created to preform fairly specific (simple) functions and certainly did not provide access to the full contents of your “desktop” website.

App Experiences: This has evolved, of course, as apps have become more sophisticated and complex often serving up (in many cases) all of the content of the desktop site, but with a navigation structure and layout that makes the site highly usable on a mobile device.

Technologies available now let us output both the ideal desktop experience and the ideal mobile (app-like) experience for a given site on a single CMS (content management system). And users (and clients) are demanding that level of experience.

Here are a few examples of companies that I think do this particularly well: and  Make sure to download their apps to see how the experience is carefully designed and optimized for each platform:;

Each of the techniques and approaches above are still all valid and in use today, but I will reference what I wrote earlier to summarize: the task at hand is understanding how your content will be consumed by your intended audience and then harness the powers of technology to create the necessary conversions.