Being Responsive to Users

The creed “Mobile, Mobile, Mobile,” and the always fun, “Mobile devices are going to be a ‘thing’ of the future” are repetitive themes we have all seen in the headlines and read in the integral foundation articles, books and in data analysis from marketing and design strategists. Not surprising is that we have most likely read these from our mobile devices - shocking coincidence?

When it comes to designing for web and web based applications, a critical focal point is often overlooked in articles or glazed over. The “users”, and knowing how their influence and interactions can impact how you should build your website.

So, what is the point? Responsive design in technical execution, is only a fraction of what is needed to have a successful website. A responsive design should be expected functionality if you know your site visitors, especially knowing that “mobile” in it’s current state is here to stay.

There are many incredible resources available for responsive design, yet, what I would like to focus on beyond the technical articles and how-to resources is the why?  

Time and again, I hear from clients, “Our site isn’t mobile friendly and I want it to be that way” or “Can you make me a website template so that my customers can see my website on a smart phone?”

My answer is always, “Yes, but … what do your consumers and your business really need?”

Integrating responsive design into a project has become an imperative. So, initially I always start with a foundational inquiry session to get to the root needs of the project, taking a deeper dive into what is truly needed. What I have heard and am able to re-communicate back to clients is often a perspective-widening experience. They know they need a platform, and that platform to be accessible on a smartphone, but are often deep in the weeds and don’t see the bigger picture. Who are their users and visitors, what do they need, how will they get to what they need? How can the website you create grow and stick with it’s users?

Understanding your users and being responsive to their needs is and should be a primary focus. Granted, your design can be the next “flat design,” or the most game-changing UI in the history of the responsive webernets. But if you don’t consider users first, you’re missing the point. Did I get enough buzzworthy tastiness in that last statement?  My point is, why have a responsive designed product if nobody uses or can functionally use it, or even access what they came for in an expedient manner?

The crucial phase in a design or even a re-design is the “Discovery Phase.” Nothing new or earth shattering here, most designers and agencies have one integrated into their methodology or stated processes. What matters coming out of this phase is what knowledge and insights will stick all the way through to the launch party and beyond.

Be sure to ask a few questions.

  • Who is your site or application visitor – “user”? (existing or new)
  • What do they (site visitors) expect from your site or application? (not your thoughts, but theirs)
  • How will they access your site or application? In a browser, on a mobile device, or a cup and a string, on a plane, or on a train? … I digress.
  • Do you currently have and evaluate analytics across all of your web and social streams?
  • From a business or content point of view, what would or do they come to you for that you have to offer? If they do, how can they quickly fill that need?
  • Do you have a content strategy? What are you trying to say?

… these are just a few.

At Topic, we build “mobile first” in respect to the aesthetic, technical and functional aspects of responsive design. Yet, first and foremost, we design and build a site or application with the end users in mind. It fosters a better relationship between a client and their customers, and provides the perspective needed to produce more interesting, engaging digital presences for our clients.