A Question, an Experiment, and a Suggestion

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Imagine your new view book arrives on campus. You open the first of dozens of boxes and find a slight printing error: in a quarter of the view books the print is very very small. Everything else is fine, in fact if you hold the view book up to your face you can read it perfectly. Here's the question:

How many of those view books do you mail to prospective families?

You probably wouldn't mail any of those view books. You would probably send them back to the printer with an angry note. But your web site might look exactly like those misprinted view books right now! Text could be hard to read, photos might not load properly, and menus could be nearly impossible to select. Don't worry, you haven't been the victim of a hacker attack, your site just hasn't kept up with how people go online.

Increasingly people go online on their phones or tablets. For one of my clients in an urban area the percentage of web traffic from mobile devices including tablets is 40%!

Here is an experiment everyone in communications or admissions should try:

Go to your website on a phone or tablet.

How does your site look? Are you delighted? Are your marketing messages still loud and clear? Is anything broken? Can you find the admission menu? Your site might not look quite right because web designers face a massive number and variety of different screen sizes, operating systems, and devices. Previous solutions to this problem included:
  • Specific apps for specific platforms - it's hard to keep up with the number of platforms, and what casual site visitor is going to go the app store to download something just to see your site?
  • Mobile versions of the site - these work well for people already familiar with your community and who just need quick directions or logistical information but they are usually devoid of marketing messages important for admission.
  • Ignoring the problem - this could work well for a little while longer, but with up to 40% of your site visitors seeing something that is at best annoying and at worst broken can we afford to wait much longer?
The good news is there is an emerging web standard to address this problem! It's called Responsive Web Design or RWD. Essentially what this means is websites can be designed to be device agnostic. The site notices the size of the screen and automatically adjusts to fit the real estate available.

Check out Whipplehill's cool infographic on RWD below and the original post here.
Click to view full size.

You probably wouldn't throw out all your view books if a few were misprinted but you might work quickly to resolve the issue as you carefully used the correctly printed pieces first. Would you wait a whole admission cycle? Probably not, and I don't recommend school sites wait much longer to move to Responsive Web Design either.

 What do you think? Are you worried about how your site looks on mobile devices? How much traffic do you see to your site from phones? Let us know in the comments!