Monday, June 25, 2012

More Expensive Responsive Design Is Far Cheaper Than The Alternative

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Today's guest post comes from at closerlook, inc. He blogs at and pretty much lives on Twitter (@digital_pharma) if you'd like to reach out.

You know all the numbers already; it appears that nearly every HCP target has or is about to get an iPad. They all had smart phones last year. The numbers are growing so fast, that some people have just stopped collecting them and have begun to simply say, “We are rapidly approaching maximum market saturation” and moving on to other, more interesting questions. A quick check of your web stats and email applications confirms that almost 40% of your traffic is mobile. This leads you to one simple and inexorable conclusion: you need to get mobile. If you talk to your agencies and partners, they will be more than willing to spend your money and re-build your website and your online tactics (eLearning, request forms, formulary tools, etc) into a mobile version that will look good on a phone. Some may even suggest that you put all that into a set of apps (one for iPhone, one for iPad and one for Android) to allow for device specificity. Sure, you could do all that. And you could also just send me a check for six figures. But you shouldn’t.

When talking to your agency partners, listen to the one who uses the phrase “responsive design.” You may have already heard it, and not known what it was. Well, let me help you sound like an experience, and savvy web solution shopper. If you go the old route of building a site for the desktop, the tablet and the phone, you have three sites. You know what kind of hassle it is to update one site already: between label changes and marketing position changes, it is a lot of work (read: expensive).

Having three separate sites doesn’t get you any benefits of scale. You have three sites that must be coded completely differently, even if they have the exact same content. The management costs alone would make you blanch. Maybe you’ve already done the math, and that’s why losing 40% of your traffic to mobile isn’t the catastrophe I made it sound like before. Maybe the return on investment to three sites doesn’t work for you. Responsive design is the solution to the same problem that you and every other web business is having (this isn’t a pharma issue, it’s a web issue). The solution is a change in mindset for the coding of your site. Using HTML5 and CSS3 trickery, they can build a site once (with only a single maintenance budget) and have it look and work completely differently on a laptop, tablet or phone.

The code can tell what kind of device the user is using to request the page and delivers the version that’s appropriate. It isn’t just a matter of making the text smaller or anything, with careful planning, it can do everything from make the link buttons on the phone big and easy to use, or even resizing the graphics for new retina-display screens. Even the images can be adjusted, re-shaped and re-sized on the fly to maximize their value on a given screen. This kind of responsiveness may already be in place in some of your sites, like when it delivers slightly different versions of code to different versions of browsers. The current understanding of responsive design just takes the idea and moves to its logical conclusion: one site that looks and acts like many. The framework can even be used to more easily port content into device-specific apps. Users can download apps – which are really just slightly modified browsers – that pull your responsive site through their window. Now, it’s not magic. But it’s not free, either. You can expect to pay more for a site that uses responsive design practices. But one responsive site is far cheaper to build and maintain than three sites.

ePharma Summit West will take place July 17-19, 2012 in San Francisco, California.  For more on this year's program, view the agenda.  If you'd like to join James, register today and mention code XP1756BLOG to save 15% off the current rate.
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