Foundation Thinking

Foundation Thinking


Sitecore for Mobile

Does adaptive design beat responsive design?

In our recent ClerksWell Customer Experience Survey with 336 respondents responsible for marketing around the US, Europe and Far East, we found that 73% of companies are planning to invest in mobile channels. Econsultancy research found that tablet sales are set to surpass desktop sales in a couple of years and that half of all local searches are performed on mobile devices. However you define your business objectives, mobile must play an integral role as small screens are rapidly overtaking larger ones.

The reasons for this can probably best be illustrated by looking at your own browsing behaviour. We have high expectations, we want access wherever we are and we want it quickly. Think of how much sympathy you give services that take an age to load. Experience design agency Foolproof found that 73% of people felt a mobile service did not deserve their loyalty if it did not meet their needs. We just expect mobile web to work faultlessly, even if we’re not paying full attention to the mobile screen – Econsultancy research indicated that 86% of mobile internet searches occur when the user is watching TV.

According to Smart Insights’ research 26% of mobile usage is devoted to social networking. If your business has a presence on social networks it is vital that the browsing of your followers, customers or potential visitors is not inhibited in anyway.

Some businesses are developing apps to deliver their mobile service, but the pattern of app downloads suggests investment in this area does not always make sense for every business. Businesses are faced with the reality that the vast majority of apps that are downloaded and frequently used are focused on games or social networking, and it is hard to make your app stand out in a very crowded marketplace.  The route for most businesses is mobile web with device specific interfaces, which is rapidly becoming the de facto route.

But what is the best approach to achieve this, to accommodate the vast array of mobile (and tablet) devices available?  There is a more nuanced debate which asks whether or not responsive design is enough, and whether adaptive design is more appropriate:


Responsive design- content is delivered and the device receives instructions for what to display according to the screen size and/or other constraints.

Adaptive design- device information is picked up by the server and only the required content is sent to the device for display.

In our opinion, responsive design is good but there must also be adaptive design too, best practice would be a mix of the two. The trouble with just using responsive design alone is that the mobile device still downloads everything but just doesn’t show it to you. The end user experience is often slow as a result.

We know that speed is critical with mobile web.  Using adaptive design ensures the page weight sent to the mobile device is much lighter, so unnecessary content is not downloaded resulting in faster browsing.  Automatic device detection ensures that content is always sized correctly, adapted to the device’s navigation and the user’s profile information to allow targeting based on location, behaviour and previous purchases. Personalisation with Sitecore’s Customer Engagement Platform (CEP) easily extends to mobile so each user’s experience can be personalised per device, allowing the most relevant content to be displayed based on their profile and browsing behaviour across all channels.  This allows you to potentially serve different content for a user depending on their device, quick, functional information for mobile use, more in-depth, media rich for tablets.

Whatever you do for the desktop, you can do for mobile and tablet, and again  Sitecore CEP testing tools allow you to run A/B and multi-variant tests to ensure you have the most effective content per device type by monitoring the value generated from your site visitors.

In conclusion, your clients and customers have already got on board with mobile. The business case for investing in mobile is irrefutable but there is understandable reluctance. Businesses have to make an evaluation on what appears as a constantly evolving and shifting ground, which devices and operating systems do they focus on? Research can go on indefinitely and can become very costly to a business. Solutions from Sitecore help to alleviate this concern as adaptive interfaces can present targeted information in the appropriate layout for the device while removing the need to develop specific apps for different devices and operating system versions.  It really is time to make a start on mobile web.

ClerksWell providing Mobile for Sitecore.

Posted by Nina | CMS, Customer engagement, Design, Sitecore

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