June 23, 2012

What is Responsive and Adaptive Web Design?

No website is complete these days without at least considering mobile. Based on comScore's latest annual report on the mobile landscape, '2012 Mobile Future in Focus'?,

smartphones and tablets were responsible for nearly 8% of all observed internet traffic in the United States at the end of 2011.

Another study from comScore showed that more than 70% of users who use mobile social media use it daily. It's imperative now, more than ever, that your site is both accessible via mobile devices and easy to interact with. So, how to make that happen? Let's dive into some geek speak'?¦

Responsive Design

A responsive website is simply a design that can stretch and rearrange itself based on the width of the browser rendering the site. In the past, servers would serve up whole different websites after detecting whether a user was viewing their site on a PC or a mobile device. These standalone, mobile-formatted sites were simplified versions of their parent sites, usually with limited functionality to increase page speeds over a slow connection.

When tablets started becoming more prominent, there was a need for websites that sat somewhere between a smart phone and a PC. Then, as smartphones became smarter, you had higher quality resolutions with different layout modes -- which ultimately meant a lot to account for if you were developing individual sites for each device.

Responsive design solves the problem at a very low level by resizing and rearranging elements on the screen to fit the user's device. This is usually accomplished through a combination of fluid grids, flexible images and media queries.

Responsive design is a lot easier to implement and maintain as websites evolve with more functionality.

Progressive Enhancement

Sometimes you will run across a website on your phone that simply does not work. Sometimes you can't navigate the dropdown menus. Other times, there is just too much content.

Progressive enhancement is the practice of catering to the lowest common denominator and selectively adding functionality based on a user's capabilities. Web developers have been using a similar approach for a while in order to ensure features in newer browsers (e.g. Chrome and Firefox) degrade nicely in older browsers (e.g. IE6).

Responsive Design + Progressive Enhancement = Adaptive Design

Now, take what we've learned about responsive design, add in our concept of progressive enhancement, and we have adaptive design. There is still some debate over the use of "adaptive design" vs "adaptive layout," but I don't want to argue semantics as the idea is much more important.

The important thing to note is by using progressive enhancement along with a responsive layout, we can conditionally introduce functionality like multi-touch, geo-location and native smartphone integration. This allows us to create a better user experience based on a user's capabilities.

There are plenty of excellent resources out there to help guide you down the responsive/adaptive road, so for the purpose of this post I'm going to try and keep things as simple as possible. You can learn more in this A List Apart article about Responsive Design and this Smashing Magazine article about Responsive Design.

Don't Fight The Future

The web is changing to meet the changing needs of its users. We started with crazy flash intros and entire websites stuffed into tables. Now, we're starting to see the importance of accessibility and developing sites to meet different use cases. If you think this is just a trend, you will get left behind.

If you made it this far, it's time for you to test your own site on your phone. Make sure to click around a bit. Even better, ask a friend to access your website on their own phone and give you feedback. Here are some online tools to help with testing:

Happy smart phone browsing!

January 23, 2011

Oh $#!+, I Lost My Phone (among other things'?¦)

Confession: I'm attached to my mobile phone.  I don't just mean that I carry it all the time, I mean I'm so emotionally connected to it that I feel naked, confused, lost and anxiety-stricken if I forget it or can't find it. I have some theories as to why this is, and I also recognize that my symptoms have only worsened since my move to a city five months ago, but my prediction is that it will only get worse.

It's a no-brainer that mobile phones have become so much more than a device to make calls to other phone numbers. The capabilities they now provide are endless from texting, emailing, taking and sending photos and videos, accessing the internet, checking sports scores and updates, navigating to a location, and the list goes on and on. These devices are doing more and more each day, proving us with more options and capabilities, and ultimately, making us users more dependent on them.

As we move towards the future, here are some cool things that mobile 'phones'? can do and will be doing before we know it.

Mobile Ticketing

As Cassie Shaine shared a couple weeks ago, companies are beginning to offer electronic tickets that can be sent to your phone via text-to-web technology. This sort of technology allows consumers to access an event or board a plane without the need of a paper ticket.

Mobile Payments

I was in an Apple Store the other day, and one of the sales associates helped me check out using an iPhone with a case that could scan the item's barcode, swipe my credit card, email and/or print a receipt.

Square is an example of another organization that uses similar technology. It offers a free application for iPhone, iPad and Android-powered devices that comes with a free card reader which is easily inserted into the headphone jack on your device leaving users with the option to have their card swiped or entered manually as payment.

Starbucks launched a program this week allowing customers to pay using their recently-designed iPhone app which projects a 2D barcode to be scanned at the register.

With further development of Near-Field Communication (NFC) technology, mobile devices may soon replace credit cards and metro cards. The technology would charge users as their device is passed near a NFC reader at checkout stations or transit gates.

And who knows! With the progression of technology, someday you may be able to pay back your pal for last night's pizza run by simply 'bumping'? the edges of your mobile devices together!

Remote Control

With GM's new electric car, the Volt, you can start, lock, unlock, and even honk your horn all through its iPhone app.

This technology has also been used with Zipcar as users can also lock, unlock, and sound the horn throughout their reservation using their free iPhone app.

A number of remote controlled apps for computers have become available, but one that has had a lot of popularity recently is the Remote app for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. This allows the user to control his or her Mac or Apple TV right from the handset.

Identification

AMOLED is a display technology for use in mobile devices and televisions, and is included in all of Samsung's recent Android-powered Galaxy S devices. The company has been researching future uses for the technology, including incorporation into ID cards in several ways. If Samsung has experimented with AMOLED ID cards or licenses, you can bet that someone has envisioned carrying valid identification within a mobile device. Imagine going out to a bar and using your phone as a proof-of-age!

Significance

So what does this mean for us as marketers? Someday consumers may not carry a wallet anymore. Mobile devices have the capacity to take over our pockets and replace credit cards, licenses, keys, and almost anything else. Tangible gift cards and rewards cards could become obsolete, as the significance of location-based apps and brand-specific apps emerges. Mobile devices have the potential to become the single most important item a consumer owns, with an abundance of information on the user's identity and assets. While this idea spells a victory for convenience, it could mean a nightmare in the case of a lost mobile device, costing time, money, and who knows what else. Consumers will likely be more involved in determining their next mobile device purchase, and security is sure to be a concern.

August 25, 2009

My Cell Phone has a First Name

I read the interwebs. Not just like a few interwebs. I mean, like, a LOT of interwebs. I'm also a huge tech nerd. You would think these unassuming traits would keep me abreast of the lingo-of-the-moment used to describe things like cell phones. Well, no such luck.

The term 'smartphone'? has been around for the better part of six years, but there was never a suitable opposing descriptor for wireless devices of lesser ilk. 'Dumbphone'? and 'not a smartphone'? have always been the conversational defaults, and 'featurephone'? has always been the nerdy, industry term. But with marketers and socialites alike, the doggedly unsexy 'featurephone'? just never really caught on. Well, now you get no choice.

The industry. The interwebs. They're all conspiring against us. 'Featurephone'? is winning out. With all the hot smartphone gossip out there, comparisons have been made, and they point the finger squarely at featurephones. The verbiage is catching on, and it's time we all started to embrace it. Now - one word or two? That is still up to your fanciful discretion. Have at it.

July 29, 2009

Ding! It is now okay to use portable electronic devices'?¦to play Solitaire!!

The second the plane is safely in the sky and cruising toward its destination, the flight attendants give us the go-ahead to utilize our precious electronic devices. Out come iPods, iPhones, PDA's, laptops, portable DVD's, and the myriad of other devices that now litter the marketplace. And I am not immune'?¦I reach for my own laptop and dive into my own agenda of things I have told myself I can 'do on the plane'? as I make my way to my destination.

That is when I spot it'?¦and no matter how many times I see it, it still shocks me. The white collar professional'?¦wearing the outfit (black pants, colored collared shirt, nice belt and dress casual shoes) and carrying the bag (black leather with bag tag containing a business card)'?¦hunched over their company provided and paid computer or PDA'?¦playing Solitaire!!!

This singular act irks me more than I care to admit, especially in today's tough economic climate. There are still people who have the time and inclination to play Solitaire all the way from Philadelphia to Atlanta?

I am not afraid to admit that this is a sick fascination that has gotten to the point where I will actually get up and walk the plane to see if I can identify any transgressors. I will move seats if someone near me is blissfully lost in a game, as I am unable to concentrate on anything other than what else this person could be doing and why they are wasting life's precious time.

I have even started a group on Facebook where people like me (I am the only member to date) can discuss alternatives to playing solitaire'?¦alternatives that lead to personal and professional betterment instead of wasted time... Some popular options include:
'?¢ Create to-do lists to organize what you need to do and by when
'?¢ Merge/enter to-do list with PDA or Computer calendar program
'?¢ Write a hand written note to family, friends, clients, politicians, etc.
'?¢ Pay bills and/or manage finances
'?¢ Update charts/activity reports/spreadsheets/proposals
'?¢ Brainstorm ideas that you think would make your company/group make money, operate more efficiently, or increase morale. Put into an e-mail and send to your manager
'?¢ Write an article for your company's monthly newsletter
'?¢ Create e-mails saying hello and checking in with family members or business clients you have not spoken to in over 4 weeks
'?¢ Read a book that is relevant and beneficial to your person or profession
'?¢ Review general company correspondence or industry trades/news
'?¢ Review and study sales materials for a product or service that you are not very familiar with at your own company or a company you do work for
'?¢ Download and/or sort through digital picture library
'?¢ Enter information from collected business cards into computer contact list

Some of you out there might be Solitaire players'?¦or Bubble Breaker, or Texas Hold 'em, or Tetris'?¦.and all I ask is that you stop yourself the next time you go to tap or click on the 'games'? folder of your personal electronic device. Ask yourself if there is anything else you can do before you lose yourself in Solitaire??

And if all else fails'?¦I recommend Spider Solitaire and challenge you to beat my score of 1504, playing with all four suits.

June 19, 2009

Fun Facts

Every month we survey The Pulse, our network of high school and college students.This month we had over 80 responses. Here is what we learned:

Samples, Samples and more Samples
Just about a quarter (24%) of the Millennials we surveyed have received a free sample in the last 6 months. Product samples ranged from tampons to shampoo to energy drinks. An overwhelming 60% of respondents tried the sample and another 15% stated that they plan to try it. Whether or not that trial leads to purchase is still a question that we are trying to uncover, we weren't able to get a conclusive answer this time around, but our hunch is that it depends on the product category (yes, we know that is a cop out, which is why we are still trying figure out a better answer).

Oh and one more thing... most respondents remember getting their free sample in the mail (see chart below). But that could mean a couple of different things. For example, did they request the sample to be sent to them online? This is yet another thing that we are planning to dive deeper into.

Mobile Coupons and Cell Phone Purchases
As Steve McCall talked about in his post on Monday, mobile shopping is a trend that we have been tracking. We wanted to learn a little bit more about what the digital natives (i.e. high school and college students) think about this trend.

When it comes to mobile coupons awareness levels are low. Just 14% of respondents stated that they had actually heard of mobile coupons and of that group only 9% stated that they have used a mobile coupon. With added support from large retailers, we believe that these numbers will grow. Right now it is still a tactic that is very much in its infancy but one we will continue to watch.

When it comes to mobile purchases, the numbers are slightly higher. 15% of respondents stated that they have used their cell phone handsets to make a purchase. As seen in the chart below ringtones top the list, but interestingly clothes come in second. As comfort levels increase, we expect larger and more frequent purchases to be made with cell phones.

We survey our Pulse Network every month. Let us know if you have any questions you want us to ask, and we'll be certain to field them.

June 15, 2009

Buy or Cell?

Imagine a world without wallets, money, cashiers, or anything else slowing you down from buying stuff (read in summer blockbuster movie trailer voice for full dramatic impact). Instead of greenbacks, duckets, dolla dolla bills, wampum, cash money, or your monetary expression of choice, all you will need to pay for your stuff will be your cell phone. I'm not making this up ' this is not part of a futuristic Hollywood screenplay where Bruce Willis saves the economy and the world with his cell phone, although that would be AWESOME. Someone somewhere please make this happen. The reality is that with a growing emphasis from brand marketers on shopper marketing tactics, the increasing number of consumers with smart phones (roughly 15% of the cell phone population), and the rise in mobile online shopping in its current format, this day could actually be coming to a store, or theater, near you sooner than you think.

The big picture idea here is that brands will be able to serve you offers directly to your phone via in-store signage using a technology called Near Field Communication, and customize the offers based on your past purchasing history, as well as your location in the store. When you go to purchase the product(s) you will be able to hold your phone up to a scanner at the register to both redeem the branded value offers, as well as pay for your products. Pretty Jetson. And perfect for a generation that has never clipped a coupon.

There are a myriad of things currently happening in the mobile retail space that seem to indicate we could see this in the next few years. The first is the advancement of mobile couponing. A recent study by Juniper Research suggests that by 2013 over 200 million consumers will receive and redeem coupons via their cell phones worldwide. Retailers like Kroger and Stop & Shop have tested in store mobile couponing models, and now ShopRite in conjunction with Unilever are jumping into a test program as well.

The second big evolution is the growing market of mobile shopping. According to a recent Nielsen Mobile poll, approximately 9 million US mobile phone subscribers reported using their handsets to pay for goods or services. Victoria's Secret is the latest brand to launch a mobile e-commerce site that enables people to 'get sexy anywhere'?. I guess you never know where or when you need to get sexy, so it seems like a smart, sexy idea. And I know about this only because of all the press they've received, I SWEAR.

So the natural evolution of mobile shopping would be paying at retail with your phone. Consumers are already somewhat pre-accustomed to this behavior pattern with the prominence of Speed Pass for gas/convenience stores, and a number of different transit passes, such as EZ Pass, providing contactless payment. Security will certainly be a big hurdle to clear, but consumers eventually got over their fear of ordering stuff online, so I would imagine with some time, great marketing, and maybe Bruce Willis it could happen.

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