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What's a website living in the long tail world supposed to do? We're all on a budget, trying to maximize the returns on our investments. Originally, this led to fragmentation within channel delivery models and digital marketing strategies. Companies focused on having a "tablet" strategy, an "iPhone" strategy and a "mobile marketing strategy," in essence trying to follow the old Madison Avenue model of print, radio and television. This had predictably poor results, as the web mediums share far more synergy than those old world mediums do.
Responsive design has helped create a new model, a consolidated content strategy model, where the same content is manipulated and massaged for delivery to multiple mediums. This strategy is far more cost effective and allows for much more natural usage of existing investments in CMS technology and business process. It has a few drawbacks, as sailing near the edge of the known world always does, most particularly the fact that online advertising systems still feel archaic and slow to embrace this cutting-edge technique.
At Phase2, we've spent the last year learning how to successfully combine complex enterprise content assembly and strategy logic; aggregate and consolidate data into the Drupal CMS; allow the CMS to be used as a design hub for the layout and enhancement of source content; as well as distribute it to multiple channel form factors via a responsive design. We work with some of the largest and most complex publishing companies on the planet. In essence, we're helping those companies consolidate and gain massive market efficiencies from their distributed internal content creation network with minimum invasiveness into their existing systems. This is helping them survive incredible market pressures within the publishing world. We are helping companies develop more complex channel management strategies as well, where delivery can be based on upstream tagging or leveraging the CMS to provide both raw and curated content to highly designed mobile platforms, such as photography driven iPad apps.
Gabe Sumner — Telerik
Responsive Design will dispel a mindset that has needed to disappear for a very long time. This mindset views webpages in the same way offline pages are viewed: as static objects, where each viewer receives the same experience. In reality, this has NEVER been true. We’ve always had different browsers and different devices. Although through numerous tricks we’ve managed to sustain the illusion that webpages are static.
The proliferation of new Internet devices shatters this illusion; there are too many devices to support reliably through tricks. Strategies such as ‘forking’ (creating dedicated content for specific devices) simply do not scale. This will force teams to confront what has always been true. How does a webpage look? It depends. Responsive Design embraces this reality and our tools and process must do the same.
Dan Keldsen — Information Architected Inc.
The challenge of responsive design is that unfortunately, both technically-focused personnel and marketers, are often fractured into specialties that make Marshall McLuhan's famous phrase: "The medium is the message," into a self-fulfilling prophesy that explodes content into an unholy, expensive mess.
That way lies madness, where a single marketing message is exploded and replicated (not in a positive "viral" way) into many different copies and sets of code to show completely overhauled versions of the message to different devices.
The alternative is a lightweight, responsive design that does just enough manipulation of the display to delight the viewer, while preventing ridiculous technical/platform investments in your back-end systems, and/or intense manual work and re-formatting to create many varieties of the message to suit.
The trick of course is to maintain both the effectiveness of that message in each medium, while delighting the customer at the readability, usability (given "swiping" and other mobile behaviors for example) and overall experience on the device/viewer they happen to be using at the moment. It should NOT be to simply strip-down the design so it "works" on many different devices, but rather to optimize to a sub-set of the devices that both you (your company) and your customers (and prospects) care about.
It comes down to behavior and effectiveness. For smartphone users in particular, if they feel insulted because the experience of your web site/app clearly doesn't care that they're visiting via a mobile device and they have to pinch and scroll and pray that "fat fingering" doesn't ruin their day well, who can blame them? It's not THAT hard and it doesn't have to be expensive either, but it does take planning to do it well.
From a marketing and design standpoint, there is still too much of a focus on "pixel-perfect" designs even roughly 20 years into the revolution of the web, which was built to free information of any kind (marketing materials included) from the container or layout it may have been originally designed for.
The underlying changes to the business processes behind channel management and digital marketing as a whole, is either that the individuals roles within marketing need to be enhanced to become more cross-disciplinary (and cross-medium savvy) or the functional equivalents of enterprise architects and information architects (let's call them marketing architects for now) need to provide the overall vision/framework to tie the disparate pieces together into a functioning, modern system that makes enabling responsive design the default, rather than an afterthought.
It's about marketing design flow, the process of creating and publishing marketing materials, and the customer experience flow, in what customers see, on whatever device they happen to be using. Great flow is designed and refined, not just bought and implemented. It's time to get to work.
While I'm not normally a fan of "blow it up" style business process redesign, in this case it may be smarter to reset and start over, for those companies who have been accumulating people and systems to support digital marketing, but haven't had a particularly "integrative" and flexible approach to doing so.
If 2008 was the economic reset, perhaps 2012 is time for design reset. This has been coming for a long time folks (stretching over 20 years back to SGML).
When is it the right time to make this a priority, for you and your customers?
Peter Marsh — Atex
Responsive design is a silver bullet to produce great looking, high quality content on more and more devices, or is it? Responsive design allows designers and editors to create content once and publish it to any digital channel. From a marketer’s perspective, responsive design enables greater SEO (search engine optimization). There is no need to build separate desktop, tablet and mobile sites with backlinks and redirects for mobile users. As a result, link popularity can be maintained in the single responsive site, which helps drive organic search traffic, audience engagement and sales.
By itself, responsive design does not automatically deliver contextually relevant information. Users need different information in different channels and this is where multi-channel publishing comes into play. Channel context highlights the need for a web content management system that can leverage responsive design coupled with the ability to deliver the same or different content to different channels depending on the context of the user. This concept can be extended further to the advertising that is displayed for a user based upon his or her device and context. Best practices are still emerging for ad management within responsive design, and ad networks are beginning to adapt to this concept. As this area evolves, publishers will be able to target audiences with a continual blend of relevant content and contextual advertising for any web, mobile or tablet device. This capability will help turn the responsive design silver bullet into pure gold.
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