For most large clients there is a gap between best practices and the reality of a company’s actual behaviour. Helping those clients identify and close that gap results in a big win for the business.
I’m a digital strategy lead, and my agency, Deecipher, works with large corporate clients across the financial services, legal, and consulting sectors on a wide variety of engagements, including digital strategies and website redevelopments. Approximately 18 months ago, we took a hard look at responsive design. After careful consideration, we decided to add this as part of our digital offering.
Selling Responsive design is easy
Since we began selling this capability, convincing clients of the value of a responsive design website that works (more or less) on every device has been a no-brainer.
For our clients, the writing is on the wall in terms of the importance of having a strong digital presence on mobile and tablet devices. And from both an IT and finance perspective, building one website that works everywhere, rather than a series of custom apps, is a concept that sells itself.
Now that we've done several large website projects, here are some lessons learned and areas where I will push harder for my next responsive project:
Responsive design is a magnifying glass for any organizational content strategy gaps
When presenting to/selling responsive design to a non-technical business audience, we spent a lot of time early on talking about mobile first design, especially as it applies to content. Our experience is that people get this in theory, but getting it right in practice is often another matter.
Especially in large organizations, websites are still viewed as "catch-alls" for any and every piece of content that the company has. The sentiment is: “If in doubt, put it up on the website.” Even with very detailed content strategy and information architecture, we see this battle being fought over and over again. It is especially common with B2B professional services organizations where corporate website content exists more for brand presence and business verification rather than lead-generation or sales. Indeed, these types of organizations tend to have long sales cycles, and it's nearly impossible to attribute a sale to the corporate website.
When it’s difficult to clearly quantify the harm in posting up extraneous content, the"if in doubt, post it" mantra often becomes the path of least resistance. The result is content bloat and a reduced user-experience, which becomes particularly apparent on mobile devices.
Learn to recognize a complicated organization that believes strongly in a lot of content (especially true when dealing with thought leaders) and plan accordingly. The majority of materials online about responsive and mobile first design are quite rigid in their methodologies. While I agree with most of these in principle, the reality is often much less black and white. Just as with everything else, compromises are often necessary for a variety of organizational, financial, technological (and yes, political) reasons.
Suggestions for helping your clients make the transition
Build-in Analytics for the Next Iteration
Make sure the project has the proper metrics in place to prove or disprove the effectiveness of the information architecture to provide data for making informed decisions on the next round of updates. It’s easier to convince someone to cut content when you can prove it has 0.001% of the site’s page views.
If you can’t stop content bloat - Move it to the periphery
Plan accordingly, and build an information architecture and site design that will be able to accommodate these sorts of changes in a way that will minimize the impact (or more bluntly, damage) of content bloat to the user experience. If the content can’t be trimmed, then move it out of the main navigation to deeper parts of the site.
Choose your battles
Know going into a complicated project that you won’t win every content argument. That’s okay. Spend your political capital wisely and learn to distinguish between what is truly essential vs. where you can compromise. Remember that for many clients a responsive website represents a new way of thinking. Help them on their learning curve, and don’t lose sight of long-term objectives.