Why it’s time to apply responsive web design principles to business

As technology develops to accommodate the much-hyped ‘internet of things’ and the virtues of a single universal code which can be read across multiple devices take centre stage; Ray Kieser, group managing director of SGK, considers how people in business first need to develop a code that helps them talk to each other – understood from the boardroom to the production line.

If I were to place bets on one trend for 2014, it would be ‘accessibility’. In retail, under the nebulous term ‘omnichannel’, this means a consumer being able to reach out to a brand through any means they choose and begin talking to them.

In the world of analytics and direct marketing, this is hidden under the umbrella of ‘big data’ or a ‘holistic understanding of the consumer’. In technology, of course, the relevant language is responsive web design, meaning that the one piece of content will adapt itself to any device, ensuring the very best in usability and aesthetics, wherever the end user may be and whatever they may be doing. What we mean though, at the heart of it, is accessibility – how easy it is to connect with something or someone.

Responsive web design – once properly explained to anyone without knowledge of coding – seems like the perfect solution to businesses currently writing one code for iOS and one for Android, one for tablets and one for desktops. One design quite literally responds to the digital environment the user is in and makes it work.

Every once in a while, an irreverent article is published deriding the business world for another set of cliches which, when dissected, mean a great deal less than the conviction that accompanies them would suggest.

Over the years we’ve seen satirical pieces on the use of ‘activation’, ‘leverage’, ‘experiential’ and a great deal more acronyms and semantic extensions of words such as ‘creative’ to mean something else entirely.

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As a business which began in pre media (packaging) design and has innovated into more traditional advertising and marketing, we knew that the biggest hurdle we faced was that of making sure that these industries could speak with each other at ease and not at total cross purposes. In short, we needed a responsive web design for our business.

Working to artificial industry-specific vernaculars is a bit like writing a code for each different device you want your content to be seen on. It’s messy, it’s too rigid and it’s exclusive. It means that some people – some important people, perhaps untrained or inexperienced in our language – will be unable to join the conversation.  

How about CFOs as an example? Even CEOs. Sometimes in an effort to differentiate themselves, businesses – particularly agencies – develop languages and coin terms which are actively holding businesses back. It stops marketing suppliers from truly engaging with their client’s businesses and discourages interaction between departments.

As focus on consumer and decision-maker behaviour begins to take precedence over a technical understanding of channel; marketing, quite rightly, is primed to take a greater role in business. The CEB last year published a report which intimated a company’s marketing team to soon become the glue that held other departments together. If this is the case, marketing needs to develop a universal, straightforward language which is flexible to its audience and understood by all the stakeholders: clients, agencies, creatives and strategists.

It’s time we took control of the language that we use. Marketers should desist from coining their own terms and adopt the language of the supply chain. Further, they need to be using the language of their client businesses to forge a strong healthy relationship with them.  

Believe me, once you’ve been treated to a conversation in which you don’t wince at every other word, it’s very difficult to go back.

Indeed, as Nicola Green, director of communications and reputation at O2 put it in her Marketing article last year, ‘Brands must ditch corporate jargon and be more human.’

Quite right, and while she opined on the relationship between brands and consumers, the same can be said throughout the supply chain.

2014 will be the year of accessibility: the winners will be those who are the easiest to understand, can adapt to multiple environments and speak to a large audience in a way that is best tailored for them as individuals.

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter was the Editor for GrowthBusiness.co.uk from 2012 to 2014, before moving on to Caspian Media Ltd to be Editor of Real Business.