We Need a Mobile Responsive Design! The Right Way to Approach Any Digital Project

Most companies just don't get it.

Technology evolves more quickly than aging brains. The more a company has to lose, the more conservative they become. But this article is not designed to understand why this happens. That is already covered in the the Innovator's Dilemma.

Today I wanted to talk about working with companies that are slow to change. These insights apply to both employees and consultants, and represent how I approach bringing change to an organizations.

Let's start with a specific example.

We need a mobile responsive design!

I am blessed to have worked with hundreds of brilliant marketers as part of my digital marketing certificate course at St. Thomas. My students often come into class with more years of experience than I have, but are looking for a career change into digital marketing. The course provides both an overview of what to expect with digital, while also providing hands on experience, insights and war stories.

After class, many students enter the job market and start interviewing with companies seeking digital marketers. They are asked questions about technologies and techniques, and are given an opportunity to demonstrate their fit for the company.

Often, the student knows more about marketing than the company conducting the interview. For this reason, I recommend that students come into the interview armed with knowledge about the company to demonstrate their expertise.

Students will research a company using SimilarWeb, GTMetrix, Google Trends, Moz and hundreds more tools, then develop a list of insights and recommendations for the company that they can help manage when hired. This is #3 on my 4 steps to get a job in digital marketing.

The results of this approach vary, but it often leads to deeper follow-up conversations with employers, which is always a good thing.

For example, here is an email that a student received from a potential employer immediately after their first interview:

“One of the key suggestions that you made yesterday was that we needed to optimize our Widgets.com¬†website for mobile browsers.

  • Do you have the ability to complete this ‘Mobile optimization' initiative for us?
  • If so, what would be your estimated timeline for completion?”

While many of you can see from these questions that the employer doesn't have a clear understanding of how mobile marketing works, I view these questions as a step in the right direction.

What the company really needs is an education

Since I don't believe that education stops outside of the classroom, my students often ask me questions while they work through the job process.

This student came to me with some valid questions that he wanted to make sure he got right in response. Here are some of their thoughts on how to respond:

“So I sound smart can you help with any of these questions or have other suggestions?

  • I need to politely say that they need a web developer who knows HTML and CSS?
  • Do you have a cost effective company you recommend?
  • What is the industry average of how much this should cost? I believe I heard them say¬†their developer is charging $6,000-$8,000.”

It is a classic story: job seeker goes in seeking one position (marketing) and gets asked if they can do a completely different job (web development).

Do this a few times and you can see that the company has no idea what they want. They are interviewing prospective employees to lead them in strategy, execution… and probably to figure out their $3,000 espresso machine while they are at it.

Companies often treat prospective employees like fantasy football players. They try to get this perfect set of skills locked in for their team (i.e. the draft) and then are surprised when their team loses every game.

Giving the company their education

There were so many things wrong with the original questions asked by this prospective employer that I thought a thorough response was necessary. Here is what I recommended that my student do, should they still be interested in this employer:

With their first question, they are asking if you (the student) can complete the project yourself. I think we can both agree that it’s not something you would personally be doing. But perhaps you could manage the project.

As for time frame, it all depends on current site size and how many resources they have. 3-6 months is what I would expect for a site of ~100 pages or less.  Longer with more pages/content to consider.

Then it comes down to understanding what they need, and how to get it done. Here are the steps that I would take:

1) Use analytics to determine current % of mobile visitors, and estimated growth

Quantifying the problem helps establish a precedent for how much money is being lost by not making this change. Start here to get buy-in from the number crunchers.

2) Discuss and evaluate mobile conversion opportunities (what actions should mobile users take)

What do you want a mobile user to do with your new site? How does it tie to revenue? How does it tie to satisfaction?

3) Evaluate whether dedicated mobile site or responsive design is the best path. (I would usually recommend responsive design, but that is a much longer project from my experience).

Just because responsive design is popular, doesn't mean it is the only choice to be made. Approach everything with an open mind and weigh benefits/drawbacks accordingly.

4) Map out the flow for how the mobile site should behave, and what should be featured (wireframes, ux, etc.)

This is a step most people miss, but is vital to success. What should the user be seeing from this experience? Why?

Use a tool like powerpoint to provide a visual of your ideas. Then hire a professional if warranted and budget allows.

5) Add design elements to match the wireframes.

Once you have the rough outline, put the pretty pictures in place.

6) Find a partner or in house resource that can develop out this design without impacting the main site.

I almost always recommend hiring a specialty agency to do development vs. in house resources. Especially for smaller companies with minimal staff. The temptation will always be to save money with in-house resources, yet I see this succeed fully about 10% of the time.

7) Develop a launch plan to get it done.

It's that easy ;).

What most companies do when they develop websites

From my experience, most companies start and end with web development (step 6 in the process). They see a $6-8k quote from developers and think that is all they need to succeed. Yet most websites are terrible, and most companies are disappointed with their web investment.

That is what happens when a company does no due diligence before writing code, and then proceed to forget several vital steps and roles along the way.

You can impress this company by showing them all of the elements of their web design project and how you can help. They will understand that you have the necessary competency and can help them through the project.

Tell them that it is not about paying someone to convert the status quo to a smaller screen. It is to make mobile a way of doing business. This might cost them more money, but you can also project the value based on the amount of traffic/deal sizes to get them there.

But if I were you, I would run from this job, because the company doesn't deserve you.

Do you really want this job?

This company has no idea what they want. They think a marketer is a web designer. They think that just anyone can make a website for them.

Yet here they are, in 2015, and their website experience sucks. They obviously don't understand what is possible, and haven't given the project proper budget.

You can spend a lot of time and even make some good money trying to teach them how to change. But in the end you will probably just end up being frustrated working for the company.

I recommend that you keep on looking, and I know that eventually you will find someone more deserving of your contributions.

Understand payoff vs. effort

It is easy to be blinded by financial need. You might be tempted to take a job that doesn't feel right for the money. Or if you are a consultant, you may take on a client that screams danger because they are willing to pay a premium.

That is not the type of investment I recommend making in a career. Life is too short to spend time fixing the problems of others. Instead, be selective and only work on projects that feel right for the phase of your career.

It is a lot of effort to bring change to an organization. Change will either be met with resistance that prevents you from succeeding or success beyond your wildest dreams. The problem is that even if you are an extreme success case, most of the windfall will go to the company in the form of profits, instead of to the employee in the form of salary increases and bonuses.

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