When I first looked at responsive web design (RWD) back in June 2012, only early adopters (mostly startups, agencies and media firms) had taken the plunge. Back then, developers and web designers alike were still getting to grips with the concepts required to build responsive sites. eBusiness leaders, although intrigued by the premise of a single site able to adapt across devices, were mostly playing a pragmatic wait-and-see game. Fast forward almost 18 months and much has changed. Although hype and confusion continue (not least due to a perplexing set of technology terms and marketing buzzwords), RWD has firmly cemented itself as a natural evolution of web, and it’s here to stay.
In our latest research on RWD, my colleague Mark Grannan and I spoke to over 20 digital agencies and end user clients that have adopted responsive design. We found that RWD sites are still far from ubiquitous; however, adoption is growing steadily. As web traffic on mobile phones and tablets is increasing to the point where firms must optimize for these touchpoints, RWD is taking center stage in many enterprise discussions.
As companies work hard to deliver multichannel digital experiences (DX) to their customers, questions persist. A big question: Which channels (and, by extension, which development strategies) should we prioritize for our DX initiatives? Recent Forrester survey data provides some guidance by indicating which channels DX professionals say are top of mind in 2013.
A focus on traditional web sites remains the highest priority, cited by 80% of organizations, according to data in Forrester’s March 2013 Global Digital Experience Delivery Online Survey. (Forrester colleague Anjali Yakkundi dives deep into the survey data and its implications in her The State of Digital Customer Experience Technology, 2013 report.)
But when it comes to addressing the mobile imperative, respondents indicate two distinct layers of prioritization.
The focus on building mobile web experiences is measurably higher than the focus on developing purpose-built mobile applications. See the accompanying chart to witness the gulf between organizations extending a web experience to tablets and smartphones, over those creating specific web apps typically developed to support more specific tasks or functions.
Many organizations tell us that they’ve shifted their mobile strategy away from creating specific apps built for iOS and Android devices, unless and until they have a compelling reason to create a custom app experience.
Every year for the past few years, I've been revisiting our mobile trends predictions. So let’s do it again for the 2012 Mobile Trends post I put together a year ago with my colleague Julie Ask.
So many things happened in 2012 that it's difficult to sum up the year. We’ve passed three key milestones in 2012: more than 1 million apps available, more than 100 million tablets and more than 1 billion smartphones in consumers’ pockets!
Let’s take a look at some of the key trends we highlighted last year. We expected product strategists to work with other roles to:
· Develop a scalable approach to delivering mobile services. Most advanced organizations took a more strategic approach to building and spreading institutional knowledge as well as governance for the development of mobile services. However, the majority still do not coordinate their approach between marketing, IT, agencies, and vendors.
· Craft a mobile strategy that expands beyond phones. Only the most advanced players differentiated their tablet strategies. I know of a leading online retailer that is now generating 10% of its overall online sales via tablets because of the launch of an iPad app only eight months ago! However, most players still lump smartphones and tablets into the same “mobile” bucket without understanding the differences in the context of use.
I listened to the Mark Zuckerberg interview from the TechCrunch Disrupt event in San Francisco this week.
There were a few choice quotes (I'll paraphrase them here - these are not literally a transcription. You can find the video/audio on the TechCrunch site):
"The biggest mistake we made (with our mobile services) was relying too much on HTML5 and for too long."
"We finally realized that a good enough mobile experience would fall short. We needed a great mobile experience. The only path to great is native on iOS and Android."
"Our mobile users are more engaged and use our services more frequently."
"All of our code is for mobile."
"We'll build native code for iOS and Android." (And it is building for iOS first)
"Ads can't be standalone on a sidebar in mobile. They need to be integrated into our product."
"We reorganized. A year ago, 90% of the code check-ins were from the core mobile team. Now 90% comes from other parts of the organization."
"We reorganized. We were in functional silos. We now have product teams (responsible for delivery)."
"A Facebook phone doesn't make any sense."
Some context. Certainly, Facebook is unique with it being a media-centric company and very global. It does need mobile Web to reach much of its audience - now nearing 950M. For many companies, mobile Web will continue to be a relatively low-cost, broad-reach play to get to most of the phones. Mobile Web doesn't go away, but it is not where the differentiation will happen - at least in the near term.
As we roll towards 2013, the tide is turning; leading online brands, including Apple, Best Buy, Four Seasons Hotels, and Rue La La to name a few, are now putting the features of HTML5 to use on their desktop sites with the goal of enhancing the online experience for customers using modern browsers like Chrome, Firefox, and IE9. We are at an inflection point: With consumer adoption of HTML5-“capable” desktop browsers widespread and web developer understanding of the technology rapidly maturing, HTML5 is no longer an emerging toolset for mobile and tablet development. Instead, it is fast becoming the de facto standard for web experience innovation across touchpoints.
As eBusiness teams evaluate the business case for HTML5 on the desktop, it is important to remember that this not an all-new technology— it is a collection of individual features that extend the existing W3C HTML standards. The decision to start using HTML5 or CSS3 does not require any changes to or throwing away of existing code. Instead, eBusiness teams can simply enhance the user experience of existing sites by incrementally using the new features of HTML5. HTML5 puts more tools in the box, but it doesn’t change the fundamentals of how to build the website.
If you’ve been chatting with your web development team recently, you might recall them talking about responsive design. But, what is responsive design and why should eBusiness professionals be taking it seriously?
First, responsive design is not a technology, it’s a development philosophy - an approach to web development that forces user experience developers to design and optimize from the outset for multiple touchpoints including (but not limited to) the desktop, tablets and mobiles. Until now, many eBusiness teams have either developed their mobile site by coding a separate set of templates, or outsourcing to a 3rd party vendor or agency whom in many cases scrapes or proxies existing content from the desktop site. As many retailers and other eBusiness teams start to develop optimized tablet sites, there is a distinct concern that supporting 3 different sites for desktop, tablets and mobile is becoming increasingly expensive and is causing a drag on innovation momentum.
With a responsive site, developers use a single set of front-end code to build a site that responds within the constraints of the device to deliver an experience that is contextual to the size and orientation of the screen. Responsive design allows eBusiness leaders to consolidate their teams (UX designers and developers) back into a single ‘web’ team aligned around a single technology (CSS3 & HTML5) and writing a single set of code. Some eBusiness leaders are referring to this consolidation as back to “one-web” and are increasingly intrigued by the potential cost and efficiency benefits that moving to a responsive site has to offer.