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Digital Brand Intelligence: The Case for Responsive Design

By Justin Garvin

If you’re reading this article, chances are you regularly use an Internet-capable mobile device and in fact, you may be on one right now. At the end of 2013, it was estimated that nearly 30% of global Web traffic is generated via mobile devices.

For B2B marketers, the seismic shift toward accessing information on the go through tablets and smartphones presents opportunities and challenges. As brand managers and marketers, we’re communicating to a business audience operating in a world of rapidly exchanged ideas and data. Mobile devices allow us to remain connected and reactive as we go through the day. But that doesn’t mean we all come out ahead. Think about what is conveyed to your customers, clients and business partners if the heartbeat of your brand’s online presence — your website — doesn’t deliver a mobile-friendly user experience.

This is why “responsive design” is critical to your B2B brand identity. All the rage in website development circles, this term refers to a way of presenting information that is based on how a user is accessing the Internet, i.e., via a desktop, tablet or smartphone. A responsive website renders properly on virtually all devices, delivering the best possible experience. No unnecessary pinching and zooming-in on microscopic type or scrolling from left to right to read copy or view images. Everything adjusts, stacks, and magnifies so that content can be located logically and digested quickly and easily.

Essentially, this means creating a fluid environment that acts more like an app than a traditional website. Indeed, static web pages based on fixed dimensions will soon end up in the cyber dustbin along with blinking text and flashing banner ads. The mobile trend has spawned new development tools that make possible a world in which “web apps” rule and websites no longer consist of a collection of hyperlinked HTML pages, requiring users to laboriously bounce around via navigational clicks. In an app-like environment based on responsive design, menus and content are generated dynamically and presented in ways that take into account how people use their devices, minimizing the number of swipes or taps needed to access the information they want.

Mobile users need to be able to swipe to scroll content and tap to toggle menus. They find it more pleasing to have pages “slide” into view as opposed to having to “click” on a hyperlink to load a new page. Features such as these are what make a responsive website app-like.

Responsive design is now a guiding principle for website development, but other forms of online communication are quickly following suit. Email marketing clients have begun offering responsive capabilities so that emails read on mobile devices do not suffer from content that is too small, too wide or not optimized overall. A 2013 study by Experian Marketing Services concluded that 50% of unique email opens are now via a mobile device so there is no choice but to learn how to design for mobile devices. If you’re not delivering your content in a way that’s easy to digest, you’re missing opportunities to communicate effectively.

What does this mean for brand managers and marketers in the B2B space? Consider how responsive design can improve an online communications strategy:

Today there is no need to manage a separate, mobile-specific site in order to optimize content for all audiences. New content added to a responsive site automatically renders appropriately on screens of varying sizes, saving time and money compared to managing two separate platforms. Plus, it’s what Google prefers for organic search rankings. Duplicate content that appears on a standard and a mobile site is less attractive to Google’s indexing algorithm.

Adopting a responsive strategy is a great way to rethink content presentation. Instead of trying to fill a hole on a web page, deconstruct, consolidate and minimize: What’s going to fit neatly on this tiny screen? Focus on core functionality and strip content and visual elements down to the essentials. Why clutter up your real estate with a bunch of cute graphics that are not only distracting but also add to overhead, slowing loading and maybe even crashing browsers on tablets and phones?

There are, to be sure, many ways to serve up digital information and make it user friendly. But understanding what works is especially crucial now that the mobile tail is beginning to wag the Internet dog. With most companies still coming to grips with responsive design, it’s time to prioritize climbing the learning curve to make a statement and stand apart. The ability to seize the moment and deliver a user/customer experience online that outshines the competition, is an opportunity that can yield tremendous benefit to your brand.

Want to spend less time managing old-school web pages and more time on content and promotion that drives traffic to your site and generates leads? A host of new resources allow for unprecedented power and control in developing a responsive web presence with app-like functionality, while saving a considerable amount of time. An architecture that more quickly and easily allows viewers to access relevant information online, in the final analysis, correlates with success.

The upshot: If you’re not already pursuing a responsive strategy, it’s time to initiate the discussion with your technical staff, set a meeting with your web development vendor(s), and get the executive staff on board.