Online education portals like Udacity and Coursera are really changing the world of remote learning in significant ways. By making free and high quality education accessible to a global audience, these platforms are opening up undreamt of possibilities for communities around the world to improve, grow, and prosper in the digital economy of the 21st century. Education at top tier colleges and universities has traditionally been a social and economic privilege, but now anyone can join in the learning revolution by sitting in virtual classrooms with the world’s best and brightest educators. Whether this involves learning how to code and build smart phone apps, or starting up a new business, or learning about public health literacy, the sky is the limit of what’s now possible.

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Why responsive web design is not enough

The last 7 years have been ground-breaking from a technology standpoint as we’ve seen the rise of mobile technology to unprecedented levels. Stop to consider that 2013 was the first time in the nearly 2 decades of the world wide web that more mobile devices were accessed via the internet than PCs. Correspondingly, PC sales have plummeted in recent years, and are expected to continue to decline 6.6% in 2014, while tablet sales, for instance, will rise 38.6%. The total number of smartphones in use globally surpassed 1billion in Q3 of 2012 and is expected to reach 1.75 billion in 2014. This new reality suggests that we’ve entered an era unthinkable just a few years ago in which mobile is now the “new PC.”


Every CIO and small business leader today understands the critical importance of mobile and realizes that smartphones and tablets are the future of commerce. The problem however is that businesses by and large are still looking at their mobile strategy through a desktop lens.

The typical business response to the massive growth in mobile in recent years has been responsive web design. This is an approach to web design, which applies code breaks so web pages can render across a wide range of devices. The aim of responsive web design or RWD is to provide users with the ability to readily read and navigate web content with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling.

Responsive web design is not a panacea nor is it a long term solution for your mobile strategy. It’s a quick fix, “Band-Aid” solution. Think about the way that responsive web design is framed up. It’s about making your traditional website mobile friendly. But this is the wrong frame of reference! It’s myopic because it falls short of answering the bigger questions about how the site functions and what the overall experience is like for the user.




Another major problem with responsive web design is that it does not address content. As one writer has well stated, “The fact that it is a mere reshuffling of blobs of content is not a Content Strategy. It’s just a reshuffling of blobs of content.”

What we need is a paradigm shift in our thinking. Mobile first provides this by taking us away from the traditional website mentality to a mobile-centric perspective. It’s all-encompassing and impacts the way you think about the layout, design AND content of your site.

Here are a brief set of guidelines that will put business leaders into the right frame of reference for moving beyond responsive web design and adopting a mobile first strategy.

* Shift your business perspective to a mobile focused one; assume a future in which the majority of your visitors and customers will be using mobile devices.

* Adopt a responsive content management perspective that focuses on how the content will look on mobile devices rather than on a desktop; this approach seeks to make your content organized, clean, and user friendly.

* Take a look at your current website on smart phones and tablets; review content, functionality, download speed and ask yourself what needs improving.

* Use Google Analytics for initial diagnostics on your mobile traffic; see what your current mobile traffic segment is, what kind of mobile devices visitors are using, and the percent of mobile traffic in relation to all site visits.

* Do whatever it takes to please your mobile customers and meet their high expectations; set a roadmap for developing a customized mobile app that is user friendly and delivers content as quickly as possible.

* Get rid of a traditional desktop analytics perspective and embrace a mobile-centric one that focuses on tracking mobile sessions and using these insights to measure engagement and drive your A/B testing, marketing campaigns, and UX changes.

* Shift your marketing paradigm from a desktop perspective in which you look for customers to a mobile-centric one where customers look for you; get onboard with Facebook ads and use tools like ShortStack to optimize them.

* Be deliberately customer focused and go out of the way to reward your customers with free gifts or coupons for your products or services. Incentivize them to refer their colleagues, friends, and family to your newly revised mobile site.




Businesses must ensure that mobile is not just an adjunct part of their strategy; mobile must BE their strategy. Responsive web design cannot meet the full expectations of what customers need today. Fitting a website on a screen can still leave customers with a lousy online experience in which they bedeviled by difficult navigation, slow load times, and truncated content. What is needed is a mobile first strategy, one that puts the mobile experience at the center of your business. If this is not your approach then you might as well close shop. It’s that important!


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About Jeffrey Walker

Jeff is a business development consultant who specializes in helping businesses grow through technology innovations and solutions. He holds multiple master’s degrees from institutions such as Andrews University and Columbia University, and leverages this background towards empowering people in today’s digital world. He currently works as a research specialist for a Fortune 100 firm in Boston. When not writing on the latest technology trends, Jeff runs a robotics startup called, along with oversight and leadership of - an emerging market assistance company that helps businesses grow through innovation.