Responsive design slowing you down?

Has the promise of a responsive design delivered for you?

One of the most talked about areas with any new client or prospect is the importance of a “mobile-ready” experience. If the client is even a bit web-savvy, the term, “responsive” (short for responsive web design) makes it into the conversation. Ethan Marcotte was credited for the phrase Responsive Web Design several years ago and first introduced it in his A List Apart article, “Responsive Web Design”.

Our good friends at the NNGroup define responsive design as follows, “a development technique that detects the client type and dynamically adjusts the layout of a site according to the size of the screen on which it is displayed. Thus, the same content may be displayed in a three-column format on a desktop, two-column format on a tablet, and one-column format on a smartphone”.

But let’s face it, while the benefits of a responsive approach (supports a variety of screen sizes with a single implementation, offers content and feature unity and potentially saves on development time) are many, this approach is no longer good enough. Bloated responsive experiences are crushing the user experience (and your conversions).

It’s time to focus on what matters most to the mobile user – speed, readability and UI clarity. As more and more emphasis is placed on supporting “micro-moments” across a user’s journey and Google writes about the importance of sub, three-second response times, (The AMP Project will be covered in a future post) one thing is clear – cramming a bunch of desktop-designed elements into a small area and trying to deliver them over a less than optimal network connection plagues the success of responsive design.

At Consensus, many times we turn to an “adaptive design” approach (and I need to give a shoutout to one of my former colleagues Scott Jehl, who tried to beat me over the head with a concept he called “Progressive Enhancement”, a sort of precursor to adaptive design). Adaptive design is a version of responsive design in which the server detects the capabilities of a device and only sends the content and features that meet a user’s needs. While some approaches focus specifically on the type of device, we try and stay true to the business needs and primary user goals.

Here is a brief outline of our approach as it applies to our adaptive thinking:

1. Mobile factoring. Really focus on the goals of your mobile users and do not support more than 5 primary tasks from the home page (and ensure your search is lightning fast). Hamburger menus were a great novelty, but let’s face it, your users want to get in and get out – user attention is at a premium.

2. Readability. One of the most important factors in a successful mobile experience is readability. Mobile devices have limited pixel real estate, which means you will be tempted to fit a lot of information into a small area – don’t do it! Text content HAS to be legible. A few heuristic rules for mobile – text should be at least 14px, line height and letter spacing are appropriate based on the font type and screen contrast.

3. Speed. The research teams at Google continue to emphasize the importance of speed (< 3 seconds response times). While technology advances assist in this area, we can control the experience by limiting the number of elements, focusing on core user tasks and using technology that supports nanosecond response times.

4. Design for micro-moments. The mobile device will be used “on the go.” Users often have to quickly accomplish one core function in a mobile experience – this includes things such as find-a-doc, contact a location and login.

5. Make an amazing first impression. Your mobile experience doesn’t get a second chance. If you disappoint the first time, you can bet (with 80 percent confidence) a user won’t be back. Show just what users need to know to get started—nothing more, nothing less. Keep it simple and you will see an increase in usage.

6. Design for the finger. When you’re designing mobile experiences, it’s best to make your targets big enough so that they’re easy for users to tap. Your UI primitives should be 30px to 40px in size. Also, it’s important to remember the height and width of the input and search fields!

7. Plan to land. Many times landing pages or article detail pages are overlooked in the planning process on mobile devices. All of that fantastic SEO and media planning work and the user lands on an experience that feels like Professor Swearingen’s algorithm class! Keep the experience simple and contextual.

8. Emotion. A great user experience is about emotion. It is the little things that can make your user experience truly elegant and memorable. By injecting subtle details—like micro-animations or animated feedbacks—into design, you can make users feel like they are interacting with something that has a personality.

Want to learn more? Please feel free to contact us at

Why Audience Motivators Matter The Most

In our long history of building digital experiences, we know the most critical factor in creating a successful digital strategy is a deep understanding of our audience. It’s not enough, however, to understand our audiences’ demographics, their personas, or even customer segments.

In order to “build the right thing” for our audience, it’s not enough to understand what our audiences need; we need to understand why they need it.

Why motivation matters

When we know why our audience needs or wants something, we can identify the hidden motivations that drive our audiences’ behaviors. And that knowledge can drastically change the product, the campaign, and/or other solutions we might develop.

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EdTech – Turning Market Research into a User Experience

When Education Week wanted to transform their digital presence, Consensus was tasked to develop a digital strategy that would elevate their content capabilities, greatly enhance the user experience and help drive their mixed revenue model.

The key to any successful Digital Strategy is knowing (and weighting) an audience, understanding a client’s business goals and combining these with the ability to imagine an amazing experience. At Consensus, we base all of our recommendations on research – our scored methodology instills confidence in our clients that any new digital experience will assist with growth and a more purposeful brand.

For Education Week, we delved into the research, conducting over 40 stakeholder interviews, surveying five core audience segments and performing an environmental assessment. Armed with these insights, we put them to use in defining a set of scored recommendations – and this is where things get interesting. We applied two different models, creating two very different views of our target audiences and the recommendations to support their goals.

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App development & the Headless CMS: Our Story

In our earlier post, Why the Headless CMS Changes Everything, we discussed the rise of the “Headless CMS” and its notable impact across emerging technologies. Since this time, we’ve implemented “headless” solutions across a number of projects. While each project capitalizes on the benefits associated with a headless approach, one of our most exciting projects is an iOS-based sales application.

With the goal of driving sales efforts, our client asked Consensus to develop an application that would empower their sales force to compare pricing and services against their competition in real-time, at the point of sale. Our teams partnered to strategize, design, and develop this new application, centered around a headless approach. Read more

User Story Workshops

Successful online experiences enable users (i.e. customers, site visitors, etc.) to accomplish their goals. But oftentimes, in the design process, keeping users’ goals top-of-mind is no easy task.

To overcome this hurdle there is a simple yet effective exercise that ends with what we call a User Story Index. By the name alone you can derive two important facts about the exercise: it is about users (or site visitors) and what they want to accomplish when visiting a Website.

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4 Content Marketing Investments You Need to Make in Q4

The best content marketing assets you can invest in to maximize your ROI in 2018.

We’re embracing red wine and cashmere season here at Consensus. We’re also embracing the beginning of Q4 and our many clients who are looking for ways to “use it or lose it “—their year-end budgets, that is.

For us, 2017 has been the year of Content Marketing. We conceived and created a lot of fabulous infographics, social animations, case studies and thought leadership content for our clients.

And then we watched all that smart content convert into leads.

So, if you’re thinking about how you can spend the rest of your 2017 budget, we’ve got some ideas:

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Lifespan Health System: An Award-Winning Digital Strategy to Support a Growing Hospital System

How we created a successful digital strategy, and award-winning homepage, for a hospital system, merging its network of websites into one coherent, empowering experience to drive patient volume and brand trust.

When it comes to picking a hospital, 77% of patients use search engines prior to booking an appointment. And before they convert, patients will typically search on symptoms and condition terms.

As the healthcare industry experiences more consolidation between healthcare and providers, creating streamlined digital experiences that satisfy patients’ expectations is a growing challenge for marketers who count on their website to drive patient volume.

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Design Truths: Trends That Actually Work, and Some That Don’t

Both designers and companies want to be at the forefront of design trends to stay relevant in this rapidly changing world. However some trends that we have adopted really aren’t as amazing as we think. While there are some design fads that are and benefit the company’s brand. But very few companies have instituted them. In the same token, companies don’t want to invest time into testing these patterns on their websites. They want something fast and something safe which tends to lend itself to design trends that aren’t super great that are used over and over again.

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