Responsive design a mobile format solution, not content solution

As enterprises look to expand their web presence to mobile apps, the question quickly arises: Should we build a native app or a responsively designed website that translates well to mobile devices?

Responsive design often wins out, but many IT and marketing folks are fooled into thinking responsive design is a mobile content strategy, writes Karen McGrane in a post on A List Apart.

"Responsive design won't fix your content," says McGrane.

Responsive web design allows content to be placed in containers that are "squishy," so the webpage can adjust according to the viewer's screen size. It's a layout solution, but there's the problem of the content within those containers--something many organizations don't anticipate when they turn to responsive design as the "poor man's content strategy," says McGrane.

This misconception is widespread, according to the post, which recounts several anecdotes of designers being asked to make important content decisions and organizations reluctant to revisit their site's assets and restructure them for mobile.

"Others acknowledge it's time for a new approach, but need processes that will enable them to clean up and restructure existing content to make it appropriate for a responsive design," relates McGrane.

She lays out the cold hard truth:

- legacy systems will have to be addressed; 
- design editorial workflow first;
- there isn't time to edit everything; and 
- plan for long term governance

"It may seem more complicated to edit your content and fix your processes and systems at the same time you're designing a new site--but in fact, pretending you don't have to solve these problems just makes the job harder. Smart organizations will see this as a benefit, not a drawback, and will use this chance to make a better website, not just a squishy one," McGrane concludes.

For more:
- read the column at A List Apart

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