70 Per Cent Are Not Doing Mobile Well Enough, Fast Enough

Daniel Weisbeck, CMO of Netbiscuits, tells Mobile Marketing how and why he believes adaptive, not just responsive, is the way forward on mobile. And why mobile-first is the only strategy that will do.

MM: So what’s the difference between responsive and adaptive design?

Both are methodologies – not bespoke technology in itself – just different ways of approaching web design. Responsive web design is a very hot term based on standards like HTML5 around how to build a website now that we’re moving away from PCs. It is a method for designing a website that can read the browser information of the device and adapt itself to the screen size. 

But the world now understands that it’s not enough just to have a mobile site, you have to make it work fast enough and deliver the right experience. Responsive can’t give you contextualised content that’s relevant to users – using things like time, location, whether they have GPS switched on, NFC, if that’s being utilised. In order to make those things work, you have to have an adaptive strategy.

Adaptive web strategies or responsive web design with server-side services (RESS) are and can be inclusive of responsive design. Responsive design struggles with something like image conversion, sending the highest possible resolution image, then reading the browser information and trying to re-send something more suitable, which takes time and drains battery. Adaptive design all happens server-side, which means you send the right thing to begin with. Adaptive enables you to figure out the device specs first and then send the information required. It’s a faster way of doing it.

MM: Can people really tell the difference?

Consumers can tell when a site doesn’t work. The end result has to be a mobile website that loads on any device – and whether they are using wifi or their cell network – within 3 to 5 seconds. Our own research found that 76 per cent of people around the world in 10 different countries all said they would walk away from a mobile website that’s not optimised to their device. This is a critical loss for companies that don’t know how their mobile consumers behave. 

MM: But isn’t everyone already on board with mobile web already?

The marketing world is now driving this shift – particularly inside of large enterprises – where they are aiming for a better UX with reach across all devices. Companies that don’t put together an adaptive strategy and are not mobile-first will see their customers decline.

Upwards of 70 per cent of companies in the world today are learning to do mobile but are not doing it well enough – not testing enough devices and not building for mobile devices fast enough. They are still in that education, entry-phase. We are seeing a lot of uptick in our business for companies to say ‘we’re trying to make this happen, but is there any advice you can give us on how you can build these things?’ 

MM: So how do you adapt to all the different devices that are out there?

Most companies are testing on three or five of the top devices, while responsive design relies on the web browser correctly reporting the handset screen size. We have complied one of the largest catalogues in the industry of the profiles of different devices in use in the world today. We have manually tested handsets, measured exact screen sizes, the chip power, features and functions, as well as using alogorithms to identify dynamic parameters, like bandwidth at a given time. This identifies the context as well as features and functions.

A device may have 4G capability for example, but where they are at that time, they may only be getting EDGE. Some devices ship with different operating systems in different countries. You have to know the OS and the version of the OS. That means we’ve already come up with 6,000 different handset profiles for our clients to test their mobile sites with. We can test any device that our customers need, we keep an eye out of emerging handsets that are picking up enough volmues, and within 24 to 48 hours of a new handset release, we try to add it to our library.

MM: And given that many companies will have just launched their first responsive site, how do they future-proof their mobile strategy, 

This will always be evolutionary because new technologies are always emerging – audio and non-touch gesture control to name two that are seeing increasing usage. Many companies are coming to the realisation that the world of how you build a PC website and then focus on analytics and tools to use it has ended. Your web strategy is becoming your consumer strategy, incorporating analytics, marketing, UX, into day-to-day conversations and engagement.