Insights from the Roundtable: Responsive Design and the Challenges of Developing Mobile Apps

Last night Cantina’s Responsive Design and the Challenges of Developing Mobile Apps roundtable event was well attended and boasted a rich, interactive discussion of the challenges and successes Cantina’s consultants have seen in the field. Our discussion leaders focused on responsive design and mobile app development. The consultants shared practical case studies, best practices, tactics and techniques.

Below are a few of the key questions and insights that emerged from the group discussion.

How do we deliver responsive design? What changes are required?

Alec Francesconi, a Principal Consultant, Project Management at Cantina, highlighted the need to employ agile delivery methodologies to deliver results quickly. Iterative development enhances and adapts the work product to meet the evolving needs of an organization’s target audiences. Alec noted that it was particularly useful to have experts assist to educate, teach internal teams and assist in the delivery of these new practices as the outside consultants bring the needed acumen and practical experience. The speed of change in both technology and customer expectations continues to increase, and in six months many current parameters will have changed.

George White, a Principal Consultant and the Mobile Practice Lead at Cantina, emphasized that with devices like the Amazon Fire and other interruptive innovations comes a need to evolve the organization to become more flexible and nimble. It is better to “respond” proactively to changes in behavior than “react” belatedly to  demands as customers adopt new devices and alter the way they relate to an organization. George also discussed the ever changing nature of the way audiences interact with new devices, be it touch vs. hover gestures, layout, and one or two-handed operations.

How much does responsive design cost?

The Cantina panelists laughingly said “The consultant’s answer is always ‘It depends!’” The discussion did lead to some important factors organizations should consider. Matt Crist, Senior User Experience Consultant at Cantina, explained that responsive design is a new paradigm today, but that in two years it will be a best practice that all organizations will employ when developing sites across channels and devices.

Although early in the evolution of standards and practices, Cantina has found that designing sites according to responsive design principles requires about a 30% increase in development costs for a single site, but could represent a savings when compared to developing separate sites for each different platform. Organizations that adopt responsive design now will also achieve a competitive advantage by offering their customers a superior integrated site experience on the platform of their choice.

Best results are achieved when responsively designed sites are implemented with up front ethnographic research (both qualitative and quantitative audience analysis), in alignment with business objectives and company strategy, and  the right technology approach is used.

Should I consider a commercial mobile app framework, web app, or native solution?

Chris Lamothe, a Principal User Experience Consultant and Principal at Cantina, noted that organizational requirements should drive this decision, with a strong focus on future extensibility to other channels. George White shared several case studies highlighting features and functionality that dictate the decision to build a native versus web application.  George also demonstrated a web app Cantina recently developed which highlighted the compelling experience created from the display of complex data sets and calculations.

Thanks to everyone who attended

Cantina appreciates the effort made by everybody who attended last night’s event, particularly given the inclement weather. Please share your feedback in the comments area below, including topics of interest for similar forums.  And, as always, if you are interested in conducting an advisory session with one of our consultants, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Cantina's Responsive Design and the Challenges of Developing Mobile Apps roundtable event boasted a rich discussion.