What Publishers Should Ask About Responsive Design

March 31, 2014

We know, we know: you’ve heard it a lot over the last year: responsive design should be a key part of your content marketing strategy. We’ve talked about why and it’s probably only a matter of time until you go that way—or you might have already. Regardless, the nature of responsive design will continue to evolve, but your content will always be at the heart of it. That’s why questions like this should be part of the conversation with your designer, when you go responsive (or adjust your strategy).

1)   Will the design hide my content?  Because you are dealing with less space, there is a good chance it will hide some of your content, so it’s important to have strategies in place to make sure the most relevant content is surfaced and that readers can find easily the content they are seeking.

2)   How do we handle visual content?  You know that images and video, as well as ads and graphics are a big piece of your content puzzle. They are even bigger on mobile

a.     You may need to adjust your strategy to think more deliberately about how images contribute to telling your story: are they essential to the story?  Do they affect reader experience and engagement?

b.     You should also think about how images render from device to device.  You may like that huge leaderboard on your desktop version, but if scaling it down just slightly means that it will work better across all devices, you will save yourself a lot of headaches.

3)   Is load time an issue?  We’ve talked before about the need for speed. It’s even more important in the context of responsive design. Essentially, you are dealing with a variety of devices and connections. You can’t assume that everyone trying to access your content on a mobile device is going to have that speedy connection. So, make sure you do your best to accommodate those variable conditions. Keeping your initial page sizes down is a place to start. This will help ensure that the reader experience is about the content, not the inability to access it. 

4)   Does branding matter?  You know that it does.  With responsive design, make sure that your content styles and layouts don’t vary drastically from what your audience already knows about you, but that they also mesh with the more universal icons and navigation.

5)   What about migrating content? Like any editorial process, you need to have a plan for editing and structuring your content for the responsive design. Don’t just wing it. Of course, it helps if you have an Enterprise Publishing System that maximizes the effectiveness of responsive design as part your editorial workflow.   You'll want to present compelling, contextually related content to draw readers to your site on all platforms.

6)  Is reader experience seamless?  Your readers should be able to log in, purchase items and open downloads; alternative platforms should not diminish functionality.  Equally important, your design and underlying code should allow you to track reader behavior and synch with circulation or fulfillment systems to process transactions without creating new data silos.  Tracking and understanding reader behavior on mobile will prove crucial to reaching new customers.

7)   How does this affect my overall content strategy?  You are not a stranger to online reading styles: generally, you have less time than ever to get your reader’s attention. This is only becoming truer as more people switch to consuming content on a mobile platform. Your strategy needs to take that into consideration.

a.     Density is death. Okay, we’re being melodramatic, but it’s highly likely that if a mobile user runs into blocks of dense content, they’re not going to stick around.

b.     White space = oxygen (or life!). Make room for your content to breath.

c.      Simplify. Be selective about what content is presented, then make it easy for readers to click a button and get what they are looking for. Small units of content are more digestible and you can arrange navigation to allow readers to get more of it, when they are ready—not all at once.

Responsive design is a necessity, but that doesn’t mean it has to be rocket science. Opening the door for a collaborative process with your designers will help to drive a successful strategy going forward.