5 Improvements Responsive Web Design Desperately Needs
If you’ve never been to London, you should make time to go. It’s a great town. Recently, I was fortunate enough to take my own trip across the pond to speak at the 2014 Technology for Marketing and Advertising conference held at the National Hall. The event rakes in over 11,000 attendees and is a great place to find out about what’s the latest and greatest in the industry. My presentation was on the future of web design and the various advancements that will entail.
Right now, responsive design is the cutting edge of what is possible for web developers. While this is a big step forward in helping websites look good across multiple devices such as tablets and smartphones, unfortunately, most websites, particularly small business websites, all too often end up as essentially just digital brochures when they could be so much more.
When a small business has a website optimized for all devices, that’s great. We all live in a multi-screen world, and web content needs to appear perfectly no matter how it’s being viewed. However, moving forward into the future, sites must do more than simply offer up basic information to customers; they have to actively drive conversion.
In a word, these coming websites need to be “smart.” Here are what we see as the five improvements that need to be made to responsive web design before we can all officially start using the term, “smart sites.”
1) An Engagement Layer
Smart sites will have business-driving features layered on top of their design. These will act as prominent calls-to-action, directing site visitors to engage with a small business’ website in a desired way. Want customers to find their way to your brick-and-mortar store? Simply create a one-click button that presents tablet or smartphone users with step-by-step directions from their geolocation. Want to push a certain promotion you’re running? Create a feature that sends a coupon directly to a user’s phone instantly (opt-in, of course).
2) Right Content For The Right Screen
On different screens, people have different needs. The full “About” section of your website might not need to be shown on a smartphone. For more complex tasks, your customers generally still use desktop computers, so it makes sense that this version of your site would be more information heavy. Smart sites also must conform to the capabilities of the device on which it’s being accessed. A Click-to-Call button definitely belongs on a smartphone, but does it really need to be on a desktop?
3) Reduced Development Time
One of the most daunting gates keeping responsive web design locked away from the masses is time. The time and complexity it takes to create a truly great responsive website means, for most SMBs, building the site themselves is out of the question. Paying a developer to do it still isn’t a great option either, as the investment of time remains a factor and keeps the cost high. As such, many SMBs simply ignore their website and leave it dusty and neglected. Smart sites will cut development time by importing a business’ already existing web content from places like Facebook, Yelp, Google Places, etc., and eliminate the need for an SMB to become an expert digital marketer.
4) Aware Of What’s Happening
Beyond a common situation, such as using a smartphone, all customers are different. They have different needs and desires. Smart sites will be able to make the most of any given scenario. For example, a 60-year-old may need to have the font bumped up on a site they’re viewing via smartphone. If it’s later in the day, a user looking at a restaurant site may want to see the dinner specials right on the homepage, or if it is Sunday morning, the brunch menu instead. Smart sites will be able to account for these various situations and accommodate users accordingly.
5) Learn From Experience
Perhaps most importantly, smart sites will be able to optimize themselves based off of user interaction. This is what makes them truly intelligent. Say the customers of a small business continuously come back to one product – a smart site would place this product more prominently on the website, since it knows it’s a hot item. Based off of previous customer behavior, the site would also be able to run its own multivariate tests, such as experimenting with where the best place is for a button to increase conversion.