A Case for Accessibility, Not Brevity

Why a website should be more than a skeleton

Marketers and designers love new trends. In the industry, we’re supposed to keep a vigilant eye on what’s next, and we generally do. Two trends that have continued to gain steam since 2010 are mobile-first web design and responsive web design.

Put simply, mobile-first design tends to strip away the functions a user can experience on a desktop or laptop computer. It offers a “just the facts, ma’am” version of a web experience on all devices.

With responsive web design, the website may contain a good deal of information, but it reconfigures itself depending upon the screen size.

The thinking is this: Since everybody’s going mobile, who wants to spend more time than necessary scrolling on their tiny smartphone screen to get to the meat of a company’s message?

Mobile by the Numbers

Currently, there are about 1.5 billion mobile web users worldwide, and the trend is growing rapidly. Here in the USA, 25% of mobile web users are mobile-only (meaning they don’t use their desktop or laptop computers to access the web at all). Speaking personally, about 28% of Hile Creative’s web visitors access our site using mobile devices.

Are We Too Focused on the 25%?

Yes, mobile usage is growing at a rapid pace. But let’s put things into perspective: 70% of web users still access the web via desktop and laptop computers.

A great deal of mobile-first and responsive websites read like business cards: they contain only bare-bones information. But a website should be more than just a skeleton. In our quest for usability, it seems we’ve forgotten the real purpose of a website: to communicate what makes you unique and convince people to do business with you. A website is, after all, the fullest embodiment of a company’s brand.

My Own Experience

Recently, I’ve visited quite a few websites within my own industry of design and marketing. In their haste to jump on the mobile-first bandwagon, these firms aren’t providing even basic information. I’m talking about things like who their people are and what their experience is, what services they provide, and descriptions of the projects they’ve completed. How can a site visitor know if it’s worth their time to contact the creative firm? (By the way, creative firms aren’t the only ones doing this — I’ve seen plenty of other businesses with stripped-down sites, too.)

The Solution: Finding Balance

Regardless of whether a site is developed as mobile-first or responsive, I believe that it’s not so much about DELETING key information, but making it ACCESSIBLE for all types of users — both visually oriented users and those who like to read.

A bare-bones website says, “We aren’t telling you much about who we are, what we’ve done, or how we can help you. You’ll have to just contact us and find out.” By trying to make the experience convenient for mobile users, you’re actually wasting their time (and potentially losing sales).

I believe it’s possible to meet the needs of all site visitors — both mobile and desktop users — while providing them with enough information to make an informed decision about whether or not they should contact you.

By displaying content in a way that is quickly scannable through headers, subheads, bulleted lists, and infographics, you can communicate your culture and brand without overwhelming the user. I know there are lots of blog posts that explain how impatient site visitors are, but at least give folks enough content to be informed. (Or, as folk wisdom tells us, don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.)

What Do You Think?

Have you ever been frustrated by the oversimplification of websites? Or do you think I’m full of nonsense? Leave a comment — I’d love to hear your opinion.

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See full post here: Hile Creative2014-04-28.