A Responsive Debate: Mobile, App or Web


“To be or not to be?” That was the question we ran into during our last executive update regarding the mobile experience for our social intranet. Actually, it wasn’t a question as much as it was a statement. “What would it take to create a responsive mobile design for our launch?” I don’t know the answer yet as IT is still scoping capabilities but I can assure you it isn’t as simple as it looks. And this led to another debate about when do you need a responsive mobile experience, a mobile app or the option for full web functionality. It all depends really on what you are trying to accomplish and is also dependent on the platform you are trying to make responsive. Websites aren’t as difficult as it is all flat HTML for the most part but what if you are trying to create a responsive design for a community which is dynamic and is constantly in motion.

I guess I would classify web mobile solutions as the following.

1.) Responsive – which is intelligent enough to respond to the device you are using to view the website and it will adjust the design (or respond) to the size of the screen resolution more or less. So, if you turn your phone or iPad it will respond and expand the design to show more.

2.) Mobile Optimized – Not as intelligent to know when you are changing resolution but created specific for mobile devices so it provides an optimized version vs. the full website version which is difficult to see or use at times on phones. What this includes similar to a responsive design is building templates that react and are surfaced depending on the device and screen resolution.

3.) Mobile App – I am not in favor of developing apps for websites. The above example are more simple to manage and maintain as your website or community for that matter continues to scale and evolve.

We have been building our social intranet on the Jive platform and mobile hasn’t exactly been a strong solution for Jive which they will readily admit. I was at a Jive user group in Boston last week and was the one thing I recommended to the team for an area that needs to be improved. However, Jive has done some nice things with a company called Mobify. They have been able to create a nice compromise  which is not a responsive design as much as what I would refer to as mobile optimized but is functional. They recently rolled this out for Starbucks and looks pretty good on your cell phone. However, this is a pretty simple site and not that difficult to create a mobile optimized solution. If you think about creating a social intranet where there is an extensive navigation of employee resources you can imagine the number of templates you may need to make this truly responsive.

It’s a tough decision and when everyone is focused on delivering an amazing user experience at what point are you willing to put things on hold until that optimal mobile experience is ready. I don’t know the answer to that but hoping to better understand our options, determine what we can release in sprints and get some clarity on a launch date soon.

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About bracerennels
Experience assisting companies implement disruptive engagement marketing strategies to evolve community, collaboration and corporate communications. Provide strategic and executive leadership to transform traditional marketing programs into modern social engagement and improved customer experience. Currently scheduled to speak at the Argyle Executive Forum NYC Nov 5th and will entertain other speaking, advisory or consulting opportunities as time allows.

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