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Why responsive design matters

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More than 60% of consumers used mobile as their primary web device in 2015. If you’re not designing for multiple screen sizes right now, you may be falling behind your competition. Collin Kemble, an experienced digital marketing development manager for LiveArea, the in-house PFS agency, discusses one of the tactics used within leading email campaigns – responsive design

IT'S NO SECRET that ever-demanding consumers expect every digital channel to be intuitive and easy to use. We’re now competing for a very limited attention span and need to show customers relevant content immediately.

If customers have to zoom in or scroll horizontally when using a mobile device, you’ve probably already lost their business. Retailers therefore have no choice but to adapt accordingly and think mobile.

There are a lot of terms, techniques and frameworks for going mobile, and each has its pros and cons. The most important thing is to put the needs of the customer first and, because the experience can be dramatically different across various devices, consider what information customers should be presented with on a mobile device, tablet, PC or television. In addition, every aspect of the site and customer journey should be taken into consideration when implementing a cross-channel strategy with multiple devices. It’s very important to think about how much content to show, what content to show on each device, how different parts of the content relate to other parts, and how the user interacts with the content.

This cross-device planning naturally leads to many questions. Is the checkout form easy to use on a mobile device? If the customer makes a purchase, is the order confirmation email going to be responsive as well? Will the mobile website, app and digital messaging all flow together in a unified way? Can you recognise your customer through these different channels? All of these questions need to be considered before the design process begins.

Responsive design presents unique challenges to designers because the screen size can take many different forms. Content needs to expand and contract gracefully regardless of the screen size, while maintaining usability, layout and relevancy. There are two parts of the design process: mobile-aware design and responsive design. Mobile-aware design is the understanding and planning of how content will appear on a smaller screen. This includes making sure images are not fixed in their size, but instead scale by a defined percentage to each screen size. This mobile-aware approach has to be done correctly before the second part of the process can even begin. Responsive design relates to what you do to existing content on smaller screens, how content stacks, resizes and, in a lot of cases, what’s removed. Responsive design demands a lot of planning and testing to be implemented properly. It often seems daunting, but there’s usually a quick return on investment through higher conversion rates.

Responsive design is still in its infancy. Mobile devices are continually changing and new devices such as wearables are becoming mainstream. We’ll probably start seeing more virtual and augmented interfaces in the future, and we’re never going to know what type of device content will be displayed on. Techniques may change, but the idea of being screen and device agnostic will remain at the core of responsive design.
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