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Planning a Responsive Redesign: Mind Your Content!

University Business, May 2013

What is the most important lesson learned after a responsive website project?

It doesn’t have to do with coding tricks. It does have to do with content.

“We knew what we were getting ourselves into, but we’ve seen how much easier it is to develop a responsive website from the ground-up,” says Carolyn Wilson, campus webmaster at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

At Haverford College (Pa.), the admissions department’s responsive website was launched this year in the first week of February, two months before the redesigned homepage. “We didn’t build the website in a vacuum, but worked hand in hand with a newly hired person in charge of content at the admissions office,” explains David Moore, senior web communication developer. While everything wasn’t rewritten from scratch, every piece of web content was reviewed and touched. The team made sure the content was as concise as possible to work well on smaller screens.

This prerequisite work on content, necessary for creating successful responsive websites, helps explain a common side-effect. While mobile-first content is supposed to make the experience better on smaller devices, the extra attention on content results in improved experience—and reduced bounce rates—across devices.

Take Lynn University (Fla.), for example. After the responsive redesigned website launched in the summer of 2011, the average bounce rate decreased noticeably for mobile and desktop users—a commonly reported side effect of responsive websites in higher education.


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