To be optimized, or not to be optimized …

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Integrity recently completed a mobile strategy for Brown School, the school of social work at Washington University in St. Louis. Brown School wanted to better leverage the significant number of users that were visiting its site on a mobile device (predominantly iPhones). The challenge of this mobile strategy recommendation was deciding whether or not the mobile experience should be a responsive or mobile-optimized site.

What’s the difference? It’s still being viewed on a mobile device!

A responsive site is one that stays the same over all web browsers (including those on a desktop, laptop or tablet). It is one version of a site that is able to “respond” to the type of browser upon which it is viewed, and has the same overall look and feel across all platforms. Responsive sites are great to include in a mobile strategy for sites that users tend to go exploring on, meaning there are no specifically targeted pages that users visit on a mobile device. It’s more likely that a user will go throughout the site than just to one or two pages.

A mobile-optimized site is just that: one that is specifically meant for mobile. It is a different version of the same site that is specifically designed for mobile viewers only. If a company has a mobile-optimized site, and you logged on to the same site from your desktop, you will likely view two different experiences. A mobile-optimized site is effective if a brand knows there are certain targeted pages that users are visiting specifically from mobile devices.

In the case of Brown School, Integrity decided to recommend a mobile-optimized site. Analytics and user interviews are powerful tools for deciding how to proceed when you realize you need a mobile strategy. Since Brown School’s user base is mostly prospective students, these users head to Brown School’s website looking for very specific information on their phones, such as admission requirements, class schedules and information about the social work programs. To best serve these users, we recommended that Brown School structure its mobile site around those elements that matter most to its mobile users.

This is probably the only time we want students to be looking at their phones during class! Ok, maybe before or after…

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