Arguments about whether companies should design for mobile first or should employ responsive design techniques miss the point. It’s not the device, or the platform, but the experience that matters. Those businesses that fail to realize this will struggle to deliver great customer experiences.
Instead we propose an omni-channel approach to web design which focuses first and foremost on delivering contextual customer experiences, not on designing for any one device.
We call this Responsive Experience.
Responsive Experience (RE) is a design philosophy that encompasses not just how one should approach designing for mobile but for all devices. And unlike most buzzwords the words here are particularly important because we don’t mean responsive in the way “responsive design” is bandied about -- we take being responsive to be a directive that should come through in every aspect of your web design.
Great design should seek to create an experience responsive to who you are, what you need and where you’re coming from. In short RE calls for crafting online experiences that are responsive to individuals, not just segments or averages.
Crafting experiences which are responsive to individual’s particular context -- what platform they are using, where they are using it and most of all what they want to accomplish -- takes insight. That means hard data about what content people are accessing on which devices and it means customer journey mapping.
Once you have the necessary insight into the customer and have decided which devices will be the primary focus, you can design the information architecture and figure out the best way for the user to navigate that information. This will be based in the technical capabilities of the device like screen resolutions and size, user interface, processing power and features like gps functionality. These technical capabilities, in large part, define what people are looking for on that device.
To make a plan a reality, keep in mind five principles for Responsive Experience:
Principle #1: Content should be organized in a way that makes sense for what people are generally looking for on that device
A great way to think about this is in terms of a restaurant: generally speaking if you are accessing a restaurant's website from a desktop you will be browsing the menu, looking at reviews, checking out photos -- basically text and image heavy content. However if you are accessing from your iPhone you are usually just looking for the location and opening/closing times, maybe looking for a menu; therefore those things should appear prominently.
Principle #2: All content should be accessible from any device
Continuing with the restaurant metaphor, most smartphone users may just be looking for the location of the restaurant or its phone number, but if they want to look at the menu, pictures or reviews they should be able to do so. This is why we generally take a dim view of completely separate mobile websites: too often it becomes web designers unnecessarily limiting the experience.