Mobile strategy, responsive design & adaptive content: interview with Randall Snare & Laurence Veale
As part of a series of interviews with presenters at the upcoming Together London Masterclasses, May 3-4 2012, I interviewed Randall Snare and Laurence Veale from iQ Content in Dublin about mobile strategy, responsive design, and adaptive content. If you like this interview, don’t miss Randall and Laurence’s masterclass on 4 May in London–tickets are still available.
At iQ Content, how long have clients been asking for mobile websites and apps, in addition to desktop websites?
LV: The last year has seen a massive change so it’s really been the last 12-18 months. They know they need to be mobile, but they’re not sure what the next step is. Should we have an app or a mobile website? So the strategy piece is one that is most needed.
Are your clients aware of the concept of responsive design yet?
LV: That depends, the more technical clients would be, but it’s the same question as we had a couple of years ago regarding web standards. Unless we spell out the benefits of responsive design upfront, then the concept remains just that.
How has the rise of mobile changed the type of work you do, and the processes you need to use?
LV: It complements the existing work we do and most of our process remains the same – i.e. user centred design being one example. So we’re not designing for mobiles, we’re designing for people who use mobiles amongst other things. One thing that I suppose we do more of is rapid prototyping, to get a real feel for how the app or mobile site or responsive design will behave. However, it does add time in terms of designing for “breakpoints” and testing on a host of different devices. Just because it’s a small screen, doesn’t make it easy.
How has the rise of mobile changed clients’ content needs, and how has that changed your work?
RS: I don’t think mobile has changed clients’ content needs; rather, I think mobile has illuminated content problems. There are still very few companies with an on staff web copywriter, and that means content is not suited for the web. That becomes even more obvious on a smaller screen.
I don’t think corporations don’t know this; I think they don’t yet have the resources to have this one web utopia we designers love to talk about. We’re used to working under constraints (i.e. reality) and can recommend the mobile strategy that works in a particular situation, which is usually in the absence of a major UX team behind a digital presence.
Where does a responsive website or app fit within an organisation?
LV: It has to fit within an overall strategy, that’s the first thing and either or both approaches need to be weighed up against objectives, user needs, technical infrastructure, internal team skills and a host of other considerations.
How do you talk about the idea of mobile strategy with clients?
LV: In lots of ways. I sometimes use analytics to demonstrate how mobile users aren’t having as positive an experience as the desktop users (even though analytics can be skewed in favour of smartphones over feature phones). Then we can talk about channels, if you’re doing this for desktop, then you need to think about mobile and then there’s the concept of “one web” – there isn’t a mobile web and a desktop web, there’s just the web, and by creating walls between the two, you could be creating obstacles down the road.
What operational changes do the organisations you come across need to make to successfully implement a mobile strategy?
LV: This sounds boring, but they need to look at a few things in terms of governance and structure.
- Does mobile fit in with web or digital or is it separate?
- How do I factor in creating 2, 3, 4 designs when I could have got away with just one before? This means changes to process and workflow. A good example is the adoption of a “mobile first” approach – which forces focus on just the stuff that matters most (they should have been doing this anyway).
- Budget: Do I need to allocate additional budget for design, and for testing on a whole suite of different devices?
- Skills: do I have the necessary skills in-house?
What link do you see between content strategy and mobile strategy?
RS: The proliferation of reading platforms has changed publishing. And that’s a combination of content strategy and technology. A lot of the content conversations I’m having now are less about copy and more about how we can get system x and system y to talk to each other or how we can make content granular enough so that there’s an automation in publication. Really that means you can’t talk about content unless you’re talking about the people responsible for it. So, technology = people. The robot revolution is sneaky.
How do you create a mobile strategy that’s sustainable over the medium term—past launch day, that is?
LV: Well, it needs to be flexible to allow for pretty rapid change. The latest iPad and what it does for lower res images on the web is a good example.
You’re leading a masterclass in London called “Mobile content: implementing a mobile strategy”. Who would benefit from attending?
RS: EVERYONE. Particularly people who are in charge of anything web for their company. It’s less about mobile and more about your audience: where they are and what they’re using. If you care about that, then you’d benefit from the workshop.
What will attendees come out of the masterclass being able to do, that they couldn’t do before?
RS: They’ll be able to speak the language of mobile. Some of the terms in mobile, I think, are purposefully ambiguous, and not in an art house way. They’ll be comfortable in the technological solutions that should start at the strategic level. They’ll also be adept at adaptable content, the content that is the link between their company and their customers. Finally, they’ll have a framework in which to create a mobile strategy that complements their business.
Randall on video
Here’s Randall presenting “Content and Creativity” at the London Content Strategy Meetup in March.
Don’t miss the masterclass
If you enjoyed this interview, don’t miss Randall and Laurence’s masterclass on 4 May in London–tickets are still available.