At Unified Solutions Ltd we’ve been creating responsive websites for a number of years; some brand new, some a simple reworking of existing sites as our customers have responded to what their analytics data is telling them about usage from mobile devices.
How frustrated are you when a link on your smartphone or tablet points you to a website URL and the browser duly renders a tiny picture of a full page website squashed into a pixel width a third of the intended resolution?
All the pinching and swiping involved in finding what you need is painful – especially if you're truly on the move for example if walking or travelling. Worse still are the parts of the website that just don’t work properly such as navigation, drop-down lists on forms, submit buttons…So responsive sites are a must-have.
The way we go about designing them is not just about squashing the website into the available space though. We create mobile friendly navigation and drop content items that make no sense at particular responsive viewports (CSS pixel sizes). A lot of work is done on user journeys to make sure that users on the move can find what they need quickly and easily. However…there is increasing awareness amongst digital agencies like US that the way we all use mobile devices is actually different to the way we use Internet sites on a desktop, and that because of this, changing the desktop website to function on these devices is an important but only partial part of the whole mobile digital experience.
Think for a moment of the way you use your mobile device to access information; do you use a lot of bookmarked websites or do you prefer to use apps? Most of us prefer to install apps where they are available. The reason why has everything to do with how we interact with these devices. Our usage of them is usually spontaneous and in the moment, irregular but frequent, short, focussed and intense then disposable; we want to find something clear, quickly then move on. However sensitive to the mobile user journey your responsive navigation and layout are, they are unlikely to be as simple, quick or intuitive as that of a mobile app specifically designed to get you what you are after in one or two taps.
Mobile apps don’t try and do everything the website can and that is the secret to why we love them – we know what they offer and we use them when we need to – find a departure time, be directed to a specific place, book a service. Start up and completion are negligible and success is (pretty much) always guaranteed. They are valuable and yet we don’t have to invest in them – both because they're usually free and because they require neither learning nor loyalty. Found a better one? Uninstall and move on!
Having your app on a user’s mobile device places your brand right infront of them and keeps what you offer on the list of options for how they spend their time on their device – something we all tend to be doing more and more often. It’s important to start thinking about what parts of your website user journey you could pick out and make into an app – it could be more about allowing users to contribute as much as receive content and using the device’s location-based and imaging capabilities just makes the whole experience so much richer. It’s clear that mobile apps are the crucial next step to engaging with your digital customers. Start simple and develop what your users really need and remember we all expect regular updates for free, so don’t expect to get everything done in your first project!