Even those of us living under a rock can’t help but peek our heads out every now and then. And when we do, there’s nothing we’re more likely to see than one of the 4.8 billion (and counting) people on this planet with a mobile phone, busy using their device to learn, read, connect, play, and act in support of causes they care about.

For digital marketers and strategists, it’s not just that the channels are proliferating in which we need to reach our supporters. It’s that for each type of environment (desktop, tablet, mobile), it’s impossible to keep up with all the places our content might go, where supporters might want to connect with us. Androids and iPhones and Blackberries, oh my! Opera Mobile, Safari, and Chrome?

Forget about it.

In the last two years, responsive design has become the go-to answer for organizations that don’t have the budget, staff, or energy to proliferate multiple web presences. Responsive design puts browsing experience rather than technology at the forefront of presenting our content, thinking broadly about how our technologies might (spoiler alert here) change so fast that we can’t keep up with them.

Responsive design is a brilliant solution for anyone thinking about mobile (you? Yes, you. And me, too). But responsive, like most good things, comes to those who wait for the right time. When your organization is ready to invest the significant time and money it takes to redesign your web presence, think through your content strategy, and optimize your digital marking plans, there’s no time like the present. (And if the time isn’t right for you to redesign, consider making a smaller, interim investment in a task-based mobile microsite.)

A few of my top reasons to take the responsive redesign plunge:

  1. Maximize your money.
    Expect that creating a new responsive site is initially going to take more money, and a bit more time – in my experience, up to 1.5x the cost and hours. But the tradeoff will absolutely pay off in spades, because you are front-loading long-term expenses, and getting 3-5 versions of your website for a single price tag. At the same time, you get to ditch most of the long-term maintenance and testing burdens of proliferating distinct websites for a host of desktop, tablet, and mobile devices. In other words, it’s money very well spent.
  2. Maximize your time, long-term.
    One of the greatest hidden benefits of responsive design is the chance to radically rethink your content – from your core messages to how your content gets created to the ways that your great content gets disseminated across the digital universe. An adaptive content strategy can help your organization to put messaging at the center of all that you do. Rather than writing for the website, and then adding on a social media plug, an email summary, and a distinct mobile version, for instance, this approach transforms the inevitable editorial work of a redesign, plus your ongoing content creation process, into one unified, streamlined, cross-channel process. Talk about savings in staff time and sanity.
  3. Get an app-like experience – without having to get an app.
    I’ve written in the past about the My-Executive-Director-Says-We-Need-an-App syndrome (no offense to the majority of smart and well-meaning EDs out there). The design, development, and maintenance costs of an app can make even the best app ideas a mere fantasy for most budget-conscious organizations (not to mention maintaining one. Meanwhile, a responsive web presence can capitalize on all the wonderful interactive potential that modern coding and scripting (like HTML 5 and JavaScript) have to offer, incorporating value-added features such as games and compelling multi-media content directly  into your core user experience. And, responsive design can be app-like in providing customized experiences for touch-screen interaction – without the downsides.
  4. It’s more accessible – to everyone. (Which means it’s the right thing to do.)
    Drawing on the principles of universal design and access, responsive design aims for device independence, prioritizing the creation of one unified visitor experience that might look a little different on different-sized screens, but which transforms beautifully between them. In other words, your supporters will be able to get inspired by your amazing work, learn about your issues, seek help, and take action for your cause – no matter how optimal or how limited their browsing environment might be. On a high-speed, wifi-enabled, big-screen device in an urban environment, of course. Or using assistive technology to navigate on tablet device with limited sight or mobility. Or on a Symbian browser on a tiny mobile screen, connected by satellite from Timbuktu.
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