don’t substitute responsive design for a mobile strategy
“Our application needs to be mobile. Can’t we just take everything and make it responsive?” This is usually the way discussions start around mobility.
Responsive design is amazing. It allows you to design an experience that adjusts with the form factor you are viewing it on. It also adjusts the usability of the site/application you are viewing so it can be touch friendly when viewed on a phone and mouse friendly on a PC and everything in between.
The other thing it does really well is it shows your users/customers that you care about the experience ecosystem you have and that you are sensitive to their access needs. It helps establish your creditability as a modern company; one that understands that technology is not standing still.
This way of designing and implementing web sites, applications, etc. is a great leap forward. It isn’t, however, a substitute for mobile strategy.
“What do you mean, mobile strategy?”
What I mean is a business strategy that accounts for the “whys” behind the need for your web site/application to be usable on a mobile platform and how much content/application features your users need to complete tasks in a mobile way.
Mobile applications are meant to have bite-sized pieces of content, and focused task completion. Users tend to be motivated on specific things. They “go to the hip” when they have a specific question that needs answering, or if they need to check on status of certain information. Mobile web applications should narrow in on the important functions users are looking for to “get in and get out”.
Let’s look at it this way shall we – there are many pitfalls in mobile web design – and strategy is hard; so it is easy to say just make everything work on a phone and tablet. Unfortunately, there can be a great cost in having this mentality. Potentially, there is a lot of time and effort put into getting pieces of your application working on a mobile platform that your user base will never use. Then there is the maintenance and up keep of those features and functions as new things are added to your application.
Understanding your users needs in the mobile space will help you come up with a solid mobile strategy that will help you deliver a rock solid experience that your users are expecting. It will help you determine if you need a mobile web application or a “native app” or both. It will help you determine what features and functions will give your users the best experience possible.
Ultimately this approach to design will give you users confidence that you care about their needs and you are providing an experience ecosystem that responds to them.