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IT Briefcase Exclusive Interview: Weighing the Options for Mobile Design in a Google-centric World

May 26, 2015 No Comments

Due to the rapid-fire rate of technology change, it has become hard for organizations to keep up with mobile standards and trends. But they’d better catch up fast – Google now uses mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal in search results, rewarding websites that are fully optimized for mobile platforms.

As enterprises struggle to provide an optimal mobile experience for their customers while keeping website maintenance costs low, they also must overcome confusion caused by the proliferation of terms such as Adaptive Web Design (AWD), Responsive Web Design (RWD), HTML5 and native app development.

In this interview, Sam Ganga, President, Global Mobility Services and Mobile Innovations Officer at DMI, speaks with IT Briefcase on the three fastest-growing trends for addressing ecommerce through the mobile web and provide the pros and cons of each.

  • Q. What’s the number one things merchants need to keep in mind as they are building a mobile strategy?

A. It is important to consider the explosive growth of smartphones, tablets and wearables, as well as other mobile devices used in-store, and determine how they impact all the sales channels currently offered. When you think of it, every consumer sales experience can be delivered through a mobile device such as POS, kiosk and, most importantly, ecommerce.

There are three different ways to build a site that works well on multiple devices. Each of these options has its pros and cons, and it is imperative that you find the one that matches your customers’ shopping habits without breaking the bank.

  • Q. Which option do you recommend?

A. Well, each option has its pros and cons, so that’s not an easy answer. Merchants need to look at all approaches and figure out what will work based on what they need. One option is Responsive Web Design (RWD), a great way to design and develop a single fluid website that will respond to the user’s device, allowing a well-designed experience to work on a wide range of screen sizes—from the smallest smart phone to the largest desktop, and every tablet or laptop in between.

Those are the pros. The cons include a limited pool of developers who can do it well, and increased development and QA time when compared to a single static site. Design and development need to work together, which means process changes require more collaboration between design and development teams. Also, if responsive images are not used and the site is not built correctly for all screens, the site can be slow on mobile devices.

  • Q. Those seem like good points for merchants to be aware of. We’ve been hearing the phrase “Adaptive Web Design” a lot lately – how is it different from Responsive Web Design?

A. With Adaptive Web Design (or AWD), users on different devices are served different content. For example, a company sends users on mobile devices to a different domain that serves content from a different module. By sending different content, the user experience can differ significantly from the desktop site. This leads to faster load times for mobile devices, and the building process on the back end is more familiar to business, design and development teams.

However, that means a lot more to build, so attention is split on multiple sites and projects – and that becomes hard to coordinate. This approach means increased development and QA time, as well as complicated reporting and analytics. And it’s pretty difficult to keep everything in sync. You’re almost guaranteed to have different user experiences on different devices.

  • Q. You mentioned three trends. What’s the third?

A. It’s an approach that marries the best features of first two, RWD and AWD, and it’s called Responsive with Server Side Components (RESS). Using an RESS approach, users on mobile devices can receive a header and footer that’s customized to their device, but there’s still just one website to serve multiple devices. This decreases the overall footprint of the download and can reduce the processing that has to happen on the client.

With RESS, it’s just one site, as with RWD – so if you have the skills, it’s simpler to build and maintain, and it delivers a consistent user experience across all devices. But that’s a big “if” – the number of developers who’ve mastered RESS is quite limited. This will change over time, but given the benefits of RESS development, it might be worth going the extra mile to find developers who have mastered this new approach.

  • Q. So there’s really no clear winner, then, for building a mobile strategy?

A. Well, not exactly. As you’ve seen, each option has its pluses and minuses, but for most businesses, RWD offers the best bang for the buck. Since there are few companies with the capital to invest in constant maintenance of multiple code bases, RWD offers an efficient and economical way of optimizing your current website to meet the demands of ever-changing screen sizes and resolutions. Many of the drawbacks of the RWD approach can be greatly minimized or completely eliminated with the right team using the RWD framework.

During the decision-making process, it’s good to have as much information as possible. For a more detailed look at this topic, download the white paper, “Making Sense of Responsive vs. Adaptive Web Design.”

Sam Ganga 207x300 IT Briefcase Exclusive Interview: Weighing the Options for Mobile Design in a Google centric World

Sam Ganga is President of Global Mobility Services at DMI and also serves as the company’s Mobile Innovations Officer. Sam is responsible for Global Mobility Services at DMI, overseeing managed services growth across government and commercial accounts. Specifically, he oversees the Cloud-Based Managed Services, Managed Mobility Services and Government Mobility Services divisions. Sam’s group focuses on providing managed services through DMI’s Data Center, using secure management of mobile devices, applications and data, while reducing risk and complexity for customers.


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