American Marketer


Is responsive design the answer to building and enhancing your brand?

August 9, 2012

Tim McLaughlin is cofounder and president of Siteworx


By Tim McLaughlin

Your brand is about much more than your logo, tagline and product packaging. Your brand is your reputation, and your reputation is established based on your customers’ experience when interacting with your company, in both online and offline channels.

As the interaction taking place on desktops, tablets and mobile devices continues to increase, it is essential to focus on providing a consistent customer experience through every channel. A responsive design approach can help maintain that consistency in three ways:

1. Content. Focus on prioritizing content and streamlining the delivery through the appropriate channels. Then, work on providing a unique branding experience to make sure your users can easily distinguish your site. Think about the customer experience on any device or channel – the one thing that must be consistent is content.

Content may be presented in a slightly different format depending on screen size, but should not change substantially. For example, if you deliver an offer through one channel, you must make the same offer available on others channels as well.

2. Functionality. When your customer switches from their desktop to a mobile device or to any other channel, make sure the quality of their experience remains the same.

In some cases, functionality is only relevant on some devices. For example, GPS functionality is not relevant for a desktop, but it can be replicated by asking for a ZIP code.

3. Code. With responsive design, every site and application uses a single codebase. By requiring multiple development teams to work together on a single output, you can successfully maintain content and branding consistency across all channels.

Teams stuck in silos can only focus on the output of one specific device while scrambling to keep messaging consistent. Using a single codebase allows you to focus on content strategy first, and eliminates duplicate content development for each additional channel.

Content consistency
Responsive design focuses on giving customers the content they want, on a device they prefer.

While each device has unique characteristics that need to be considered during design, responsive design allows you to roll out features and content simultaneously.

Irrespective of the screen size, the most important content should always be available for the user. Let us say you are a car dealer, and you just received a new model car in your showroom.

If the new inventory is offered on your Web site, but not your mobile site, you run the risk of losing customers who are searching for that model.

Responsive design ensures content consistency, and can save you time and money in the long run.

The number of screen-size options available to consumers is increasing at an incredible rate.

To continually develop additional sites and apps to accommodate each new device is time-consuming and expensive.

Adopting a responsive approach could also potentially increase your ROI due to an enhanced customer experience across devices.

What do users want?
With such a strong emphasis on content, it is important to understand what content your users actually want. The best way to do this is to simply ask them.

Once you have defined their needs, take a top-task approach to identify and prioritize the content and features based on user responses.

Your top-ten tasks may account for 90 percent of your Web site or mobile app utilization, so focus on the consistent and exceptional delivery of those elements.

When prioritizing content, make note of mobile break points to determine which content and features are most appropriate for mobile devices.

Responsive design allows you to show or hide content and features that may or may not be relevant based on the screen size displayed. This ensures that your customers always have easy access to the most critical content and features, on every device.

By keeping content and functionality consistent across devices, responsive design will help you deliver a seamless customer experience, boost your ROI while lowering development costs, and enhance your brand.

Tim McLaughlin is cofounder and president of Siteworx, Reston, VA. Reach him at