How LiveTiles modernises design and UX in SharePoint

Live-Tiles-logoLiveTiles launched globally in early October and many of you have been in touch to request further product information. In this post we chat with Sepi Ghajar, Senior Consultant and lead LiveTiles Architect in New York, about some of the most commonly asked questions, including what LiveTiles is, what it does and how can it change the way your business operates.

So, what is LiveTiles?

LiveTiles is a product that enables you to have a superior design, functionality and user experience in SharePoint and to reduce the time it takes to build customised interfaces from months to hours – or even minutes. It’s also the first browser-based design tool to support modern UI (user interface) design, rapid mobile site development and out-of-the-box integration with external line of business systems. LiveTiles can be deployed to SharePoint on-premise or to the cloud (SharePoint Online) with Office 365.

How does LiveTiles make using SharePoint easier?
LiveTiles is a very simple, modern interface and doesn’t require a high degree of technical proficiency to operate. It has a straight-forward ‘drag and drop’ functionality and comes with a range of pre-configured apps and tiles. Each of these has in-built functionality and can easily connect to (and display content from) within SharePoint – as well as applications such as Yammer, Dynamics CRM and many third party business systems.

Why does LiveTiles offer a superior UX?
We talk about LiveTiles as ‘flipping the traditional intranet model on its head’ because the days of one-way intranets – where people log in and have to follow a global navigation to source information – are gone. This is not how people prefer (or expect) to work anymore. Good UX now demands that we offer faster, more intuitive, convenient and personalised experiences. Combined with the fact that touch technology is now so ingrained in our daily lives – LiveTiles takes this demand and lets you easily deploy sites that users want to engage with.

Example of LiveTiles as a horizontal scrolling interface.

Example of LiveTiles being deployed as a horizontal scrolling interface.

When a user logs in to LiveTiles they see only information pertaining to them. Individual tasks, schedules, rosters, training videos, business intelligence, and automated workflows are seamlessly combined with global information like a social collaboration newsfeed, corporate policies, important notices or alerts. LiveTiles also leverages SharePoint 2013’s enterprise-grade search capability, meaning enhanced document previews, metadata and people search, as well as discoverable social hashtags or conversations. Strictly speaking, everything a worker needs in their entire day is located within their LiveTiles interface.

In what ways can installing LiveTiles result in cost savings?
From a business value perspective, LiveTiles shortens the amount of time it takes for businesses to see real value from their Office 365 or SharePoint investment. It also helps reduce the risk around technology implementation complexities, and also to achieve sustained user adoption.There are also significant savings to be made from increased employee productivity and collaboration. As an example, the simple act of automating leave requests can reduce a hefty administrative burden and the associated productivity vacuum and costs. Even if each employee only spends an hour submitting and tracking their form each time they take leave, across an entire company, savings of both time and money add up very quickly.

Another example is the use of rich media content to train and educate employees in different geo-locations. The ability to host and manage this through LiveTiles can result in entire training modules being entirely online, removing the need for training facilities, collateral and personnel, and also reducing employee down-time.

How does LiveTiles integrate with SharePoint?
As mentioned earlier, LiveTiles comes with a range of pre-configured apps and tiles which have the ability to connect to both SharePoint and external data sources.

This is achieved by installing the package to SharePoint Solution Gallery. Once the installation is complete, LiveTiles enables you to create aggregated content pages within SharePoint by offering a broad range of page templates with pre-populated and pre-configured content, retrieved from SharePoint lists and librarians. Included in the range of page templates are up to 10 industry specific templates, such as Retail, Education and Manufacturing.

And external business applications or systems?
LiveTiles can connect to and interact with any external data source using SharePoint Business Connectivity Services. Its comprehensive and easy to use tool set allows users to arrange external content as desired on the pages, and to apply look and feel branding concepts by simply dragging and dropping them onto the template.

Got a question for Sepi? Get in touch via marketing@nsynergy.com. nSynergy are the only licensed LiveTiles seller in Australasia. Feel free to contact a member of our Solutions team to arrange a free consultation.

Previous SharePoint blogs you might enjoy:

Why a SharePoint project is like building a house (or should be) – Part 1

Why a SharePoint project is like building a house – Part 2 The Build

What’s the buzz? Demystifying Modern UI

Why a SharePoint project is like building a house – Part 2 The Build

By Simon Tyrrell, nSynergy Chief Strategy Officer. If you missed Part 1 please jump across and have a read before continuing on.

Images courtesy of Clever Design, www.cleverdesign.com.au. Photographer Ian Wallace.

Images courtesy of Clever Design, http://www.cleverdesign.com.au. Photographer Ian Wallace.

Where did we leave off? That’s right, my house project was about to enter the build phase and things got even spookier from a SharePoint project parallels standpoint.

The Build

Once we had selected the builder (note – the 3D walkthrough I mentioned in Part 1 was very helpful at this point) we went into build mode. Surprisingly, the whole experience was much less stressful than my wife and I had anticipated.

In hindsight I put this relative ease down to three key things: our relationship with the builder and his level of skill; the relationship between the builder and the designer; but most importantly, the fact that we had such a clear understanding of what the end result would be because of the process we went through in the vision, concept and detail phases.

On numerous occasions when we went onsite during the build a question was raised about a point of design. Our immediate action was to revisit the 3D model and view the design in its final context. This allowed us to refer back to the full story, and not just pieces of disjointed functionality.

Images courtesy of Clever Design, www.cleverdesign.com.au. Photographer Ian Wallace.

Images courtesy of Clever Design, http://www.cleverdesign.com.au. Photographer Ian Wallace.

What does it all mean?

The popular way of doing things with portals, intranets etc. is targeted at a technical audience (i.e. the builder). And, for a long time, we too accepted this as best practice – we would capture requirements and refer to business outcomes in our solution design. But often we did this expecting users to consume and understand a level of technical detail that simply wasn’t important to them. Significantly, we rarely showed them a visual representation of how we had interpreted their requirements or how we planned on meeting their vision early on in the piece.

I immediately realised we needed to dedicate more time to helping our customers generate a ‘mind’s eye’ view of what are often quite complex, multi-layered solutions. In doing so, we could reduce uncertainty by helping them understand it faster, and with more clarity, while maintaining the level of detail and complexity needed to actually build the environment.

This learning is supported by our experience with the house design. Although a number of changes were made to the initial 3D designs to deal with technical realities, my wife and I have made very few cosmetic or functional changes.

Why? Put simply – because our designer used rich visual representations from very early on, we knew where we were headed. We could see how he was meeting our vision and requirements, and were therefore very comfortable with what was happening. I am positive this made our designer’s life much easier and our builder made comments on more than one occasion that without the visual representations he would have struggled to build the house in the time and at the cost he did. He was able to get an immediate understanding of the design vision that simply couldn’t have been achieved from detailed technical drawings.

Architecture is an industry going through change in its tools and its processes. Some architects and designers are at the cutting edge using the latest tools and methods such as those used by ours. Others are doing what they have always done. I know which one I would work with if I was to do this all again!

Got a question for Simon? Contact us at info@nsynergy.com.

Previous nSynergy blogs you might enjoy:

SHAREPOINT VIDEO: Enterprise video killed the radio star

WEB DESIGN: The skinny on flat design

CHANGE MANAGEMENT: Pole-vaulting roadblocks to change

Why a SharePoint project is like building a house (or should be) – Part 1

Simon Tyrrell, nSynergy Chief Strategy Officer

One of the things I enjoy most about my role is that I get the chance to sit back and take a big picture view of our business, and come up with ways to improve processes. For the past two years I went through the very interesting experience of designing and building a new house, which led to a series of blogs shared with my colleagues – and ultimately resulted in a change in how I consider the projects we do and how we go about engaging with our customers.

I wanted to share my insights from this period with you, in the interest of demonstrating how it is important to constantly analyse the way we do things, and to learn from experiences that may help us to deliver even better SharePoint solutions.

My wife and I employed a Building Designer to create us a brand new house. Throughout the process – and if you’ve ever undergone a major house build you’ll know it is quite the process – we obviously grew more and more excited about our new home. But the experience resonated strongly with me due to the many parallels to running a major IT project.

Let’s walk through my experience and compare it the SharePoint model historically used on most projects.

The Vision

The vision for our new home started with a single page of dot points my wife and I wrote down, plus a scrap book of things we had liked in magazines. It was very high level, with statements like ‘lots of natural light’, ‘take advantage of water views’ and ‘low profile on block’.

We then had a number of phone calls with the designer, where he asked a bunch of leading questions, and met with him face-to-face once, before he turned our ideas into a three page design brief. The purpose of this brief was to determine whether he had correctly interpreted what was important to us.

What’s SharePoint got to do with it?

Had this been a traditional SharePoint project, the process would have virtually worked in reverse. The SharePoint provider would have jumped straight into business requirements, with an eagerness to bring their technical proficiency into play straight off the bat.

The Concept

After a series of emails with questions, clarifications and then a survey of the land, we met with the designer again and he took us through a 3D visual concept of the direction he was heading. He then provided us with some still frame images to refer too, like this example:

Images courtesy of Clever Design: www.cleverdesign.com.au

Images courtesy of Clever Design: http://www.cleverdesign.com.au

Underpinning this concept was the beginnings of the detailed plans. However, these were of little relevance to us. What we wanted to know was: would this house achieve what we wanted it to?

The ability to see the early concept in 3D (and even walk through it) showed us it would.

What’s SharePoint got to do with it?

Had this been a SharePoint project, it would still generally have been considered too early for design concepts, which means a lost opportunity for all players to enjoy an early visual reference point. Vision is, after all, the most dominant sense for human beings!

The Detail

During the next few months we heard very little from the designer. However, when we did, we were amazed by the level of detail that had been completed. We soon had 16 A2 size detailed plans, taking us through every possible piece of detail about how our house would be built – including slabs, framing, steelwork, foundations etc. These were the important details we needed to provide to the builder and the council – in other words, the technical experts:

Images courtesy of Clever Design: www.cleverdesign.com.au

Images courtesy of Clever Design: http://www.cleverdesign.com.au


Obviously this level of detail required either industry expertise we didn’t have, or a lot of study. If these 2D drawings were the only thing in our possession we would have had little idea of what the house would be like to live in. But luckily, we had our 3D walk though of the final design.

These were hugely important to my wife and I, because they allowed us to imagine what our home would ‘feel’ like at different times of the day. We were able to gain an immediate appreciation for design decisions as well an understanding of the geometry and space of the building.

What’s SharePoint got to do with it?

Again, IT solutions in the SharePoint space are largely focused on lengthy specification documents and technical detail. Rarely are users given a means to ‘experience’ the end result early in the process. Not only does this help inform their decision, it enables early buy-in to critical design decisions.

Stay tuned for Part 2 soon, when I will be talking about how my house experience and SharePoint aligned on an even deeper level during the build phase. I will also be sharing some key learnings which changed how we, as a business, tackle our projects.

Leveraging social tools to drive culture and adios 15,000 emails

Managing the content migration beast

User Experience: 9 things you need to know before you can call it UX

Leveraging social tools to drive culture and adios 15,000 emails

By Peter Nguyen-Brown, nSynergy COO and Co-founder

Peter and nSynergy Principal Consultant Daniel Goss collecting the 2013 Microsoft Collaboration & Content Partner of the Year trophy on 20 August.

Peter and nSynergy Principal Consultant, Daniel Goss, collecting the 2013 Microsoft Collaboration & Content Partner of the Year trophy on 20 August.

As COO of a company with 11 offices over five continents, it should be challenging for me to keep across everything happening in the business. But in reality, our social culture makes it easier than you might think.

To begin with, to anyone who believes social collaboration is just a passing phase or ‘Facebook for the enterprise’ – I’m here to tell you, you have been misinformed. Similarly if you are concerned that social collaboration will wind up being just another disparate business system to worry about – in actuality, this technology has the capacity to integrate with and share information from virtually every area of your business.

Social collaboration is the reason our business is able to remain connected, agile and profitable in multiple markets. It does this by acting as an unbreakable thread which connects each and every person, 24/7, 365 days a year. The prevalence and value of our social interactions has resulted in all employees regarding the intranet as their ‘home base’. Company HQ. The central point from which they start and finish their days, and coordinate their individual tasks. It’s also the place where they build real relationships with colleagues in other locations and gain awareness of activities occurring in and around the business.

Since implementing social collaboration technology, my personal email traffic has reduced by a staggering 60 per cent (the company-wide figure is closer to 50 per cent). Given the average number of actionable emails I receive is around 80 per day, this has banished some 15,000 emails per year, eliminating around 500 hours or 50 days of administration, and releasing me to focus on more strategic, higher value business tasks.

How does a social COO operate?

Let me show you. Here is a snapshot of my activity on our social news feed today:

  • Uploaded a follow-up document from our Board meeting and shared with the Board community (13 comments, 7 likes)
  • Shared monthly reports with Global Leadership Team in the Leadership community (18 comments, 8 likes)
  • Shared a collection of slide presentations from a recent Microsoft Conference with all employees (22 comments, 11 likes)
  • Followed up an all-company meeting with details on our new Modern Consulting Practice strategy (10 comments, 33 likes)
  • Recognised a team member from San Francisco for demonstrating one of our core values (8 comments, 19 likes)
  • Added my congratulations to our Sydney team who have secured a third contract with a major client (16 comments, 16 likes)
  • Answered a question by one of our Principal Consultants regarding which former extranet projects would make relevant case studies (24 comments, 9 likes)
  • Added three new colleagues from New York, Shanghai and Sydney
  • Followed two new communities

In addition to these actions, I scanned the news feed and noticed a number of activities and updates in regards to project milestones, people and communities, which adds huge value to my day in terms of ambient awareness.

The power of ambient awareness

This refers to how we absorb knowledge and store it for future reference – a very powerful tool to arm your employees with as it helps protect you from developing silos, as well as creating shared accountability. For example, before we adopted social technology my first port of call each morning was my email inbox. Now, opening the social newsfeed is the first thing I do every day, without fail.

It goes without saying that expectations around social use and awareness are within reason. There is a distinct difference between spending several minutes scanning and contributing each day, and wasting hours posting non-business related content. The good news is we have only had to ask an employee to dial down their social activity on one occasion, in almost two years. (I believe the fact that each leader in our business utilises social daily, but purposefully, help to set a good example).

Higher user adoption

The knock on effect of a highly-valued social culture is that it helps you to achieve sustained adoption of your intranet, adding continuous value to your employees (and your business). That social interaction also helps people be more productive, useful and visible also results in higher engagement and satisfaction levels.

Staff often tell me that one of the reasons they love working at nSynergy is that they feel so close and comfortable with the owners of the business, and that they can make a positive impact, which makes me extremely proud. However one example from outside our business comes from the CIO of a major client, who was responsible for managing a large intranet rebuild project. As such, he needed to get buy in from other business leaders and ensure it was well adopted by staff. With guidance from us, he leveraged social tools to share his vision, gain traction and receive feedback as soon as the intranet was launched. This resulted in many useful conversations and high awareness across the business. The best thing was that employees immediately saw the power of social collaboration, which led to high user adoption levels.

Measuring social ROI

In my view, social ROI is primarily about increasing productivity and efficiency. Social collaboration reduces the time and effort it takes to get things done, which is vitally important in such a dynamic business environment. These productivity gains help keep our business ahead by driving faster innovation, harnessing our IP and providing the most valuable outcomes for clients. This is why we are in business – it’s that simple.

Social collaboration is harder to measure when it comes to things like culture. However, in my experience, it certainly goes a long way towards building or enhancing a culture people want to be a part of.

I will wrap this up with a final anecdote. Last week, two staff members (both very effective social users) from our New York office came to Melbourne for the first time. Upon arrival at the office, they walked in to be greeted with handshakes, hugs and even a few high-fives. It was a particularly noisy few minutes with everyone talking at once and asking our guests questions.

You would never have guessed that these people had never met – they were like long lost friends. As I sat back and watch everybody interact in this way, it occurred to me that what I was witnessing was the power of a positive social culture in action.

Got any questions for Peter? Get in touch with him at peter.brown@nsynergy.com.

Recent blogs:

The skinny on flat design

Enterprise video killed the radio star

Responsive web design v. SharePoint device channels: Which is the new black?

The skinny on flat design

Continuing with our practice of offering the low-down on the latest industry trends, let’s delve into another which is running hot at present – flat design.

While not strictly new, flat design is certainly in favour in the digital community and is also being embraced by major players in the commercial market. At this point, we would actually like to tip the hat to Microsoft, who have been pioneering flat design in recent years through interfaces like Windows 8 and Xbox (below).

windows-rtphoto-jun-12-11-33-06-am1

 

 

 

 

On May 1 we talked about the evolution of modern UI (Demystifying modern UI), which has progressed from the clean lines of Swiss Style to the tile-based graphics we see today. Well, flat design is really the product of modern UI responding to the demands of the current digital landscape.

The philosophy is as simple as it sounds. Flat design removes superfluous graphics and improves the quality of human interaction by focusing on function and convenience. By choosing usability over graphics, flat design makes UX a lot more intuitive. Flat designs are two-dimensional and often feature elements like coloured tiles, clear space and clean edges, without using embellishments such as shadows, faux textures and other skeuomorphic elements.

flat-design-10flat-design-2

 

 

 

Skeuomorphism is a design principle where digital elements are rendered to mimic their real-world counterparts. It’s something we have all subconsciously become accustomed to over the past few decades, as it has played a major role in educating us in the digital realm. Skeuomorphism was particularly advantageous when using new technology was still an alien experience for people, as being able to navigate via familiar cues e.g. a life-like digital folder, helped guide us along. Today, with mobile, digital and touch technology pervading almost every corner of our daily lives, these explicit visual cues far less necessary.

Is flat better than skeuo-ed?

Some will argue that skeuomorphism still has a place, because users still appreciate the familiarity of interacting with things like Apple’s iCal or an online magazine which page turns like its physical equivalent. However, from a UX perspective, we see flat design as being a tool which will help us take UX to a whole new level. By stripping away the ‘extras’, flat designs respond to user needs and behaviours and keep designers honest by insisting that every page element serves a purpose. UX then becomes more than just an accessory, but a way to get people through their tasks more efficiently. This value-add in terms of productivity augments a user’s overall experience – a massive plus given how fast-paced and demanding the digital world can be.

But perhaps most convincingly, is the fact that flat design was born to be consumed on mobile device channels. The way in which a flat design translates to a smart phone or tablet is crisp, clear and – to be honest – extremely impressive.

Is it for everybody?

Like most things we discuss, flat design is not a one-size-fits-all solution. But as businesses start to talk digital workplace, and mobile solutions, so the flat design conversation becomes more relevant. The most important thing to consider is ease of use. Will flat design make it easier for your workers to interact with business intelligence and information, particularly when mobile? If the answer is yes, it could be the start of some exciting new conversations.

Where will digital design go next?

This is a great question, given the nature of flat design is so minimalist and pared back. Perhaps as the common elements of skeuomorphism disappear from digital design people will revolt and demand their comforting presence is restored! Only time will tell. But, as a business, we are particularly interested in how design will evolve as the industry moves towards greater device convergence. Specifically, how modern UI will unfold across different devices and for different users.

From an innovation perspective, our involvement as Project Leaders for a proposed new Digital Innovation Precinct in Tasmania also has us considering the role wearable technology will have on design and the digital experience in the not-so-distant-future. (Hint, hint: it’s another massive leap forward, even from smart phones).

For now, we are working on a number of innovative new designs for clients who are ready to test the water – not to mention being only weeks away from releasing our new flat design-inspired company website. Feel free to stay tuned, or speak with us today.

Recent nSynergy blogs you might like:

Enterprise video killed the radio star

Responsive web design or SharePoint device channels: Which one is the new black?

Enterprise video killed the radio star

Invideo a previous blog (Content is king in SharePoint 2013) we touched on the fact that SharePoint 2013 offers a vastly improved Digital Asset Management (DAM) experience. Following to a request for more information via our LinkedIn group*, today we’re going to dig a bit deeper and explore the wonderful world of enterprise video content.

Firstly, there are some pretty cool things happening in this space now video has earned its reputation as a viable business channel (not just an external marketing medium). It’s certainly true that video is a highly effective way to educate and share knowledge in a business context, but also to boost productivity and reduce overheads in areas like training. However it was only a matter of time before IT managers realised that a company YouTube channel was not going to cut it from an IP perspective, but also in terms of being able to fully leverage video content as a bona fide business tool.

The great news is that as the popularity of enterprise video has increased, so has the demand for tools to support it. In the past 18 months there have been considerable developments around initial areas of concern – namely how to combat lack of metadata to make video searchable, how to store it and how to properly integrate it into a corporate environment. One of the common scenarios we face is, that while the amount of IP clients have in video form has grown, it has not been centrally stored or catalogued. It’s therefore impossible to get a decent ROI as there’s no visibility on what video content exists or how people are using it.

So, let’s take a look at how SharePoint 2013 is structured to help users create, locate and use video content.

SharePoint 2013 Asset Libraries

Asset libraries have been created to house rich media content types including video, images and audio files. These assets can now be tagged with a range of metadata to make them more easily searchable (including details like size, duration, date taken and even transcripts), with a handy thumbnail appearing for each file. The file’s metadata is then revealed when the thumbnail is hovered over, and content authors can even choose a particular frame to feature as the thumbnail.

Leveraging enterprise search

With powerful FAST search technology incorporated into SharePoint 2013 out-of-the-box, digital content like videos can now be effectively located using metadata.

To further aid discoverability, users can rate these assets and the resulting metadata leveraged when content is displayed in a web part. This proves particularly useful when it comes to developing subject matter libraries, as the top rated videos can be highlighted using a web part. Uploading transcripts is also a good way to connect search queries with video content.

Stream it

SharePoint 2013 gives you the capability to conduct live video streaming with the added bonus of incorporating user ratings, reviews and polls. This user-generated data can then be analyzed and used to optimise a process or future event, as well as being also added to the video’s metadata. Calendar systems such as Outlook can also be used to alert staff to video streaming events, and SharePoint 2013’s enhanced mobile platform will deliver video content to a range of mobile operating systems including Windows, iOS and Android.

Beware the BLOB

A BLOB, or binary large object, is any sizeable chunk of data (such as a video file) which is stored in a database known by its size and location instead of by its structure. When storing documents and media in SharePoint, your content is generally placed into a content database. After a while, the amount of content can affect the performance of SQL (the database engine) and SharePoint. So Microsoft introduced the concept of Remote BLOB Storage (RBS) to combat this and help to improve the overall performance of SharePoint and SQL, with lower cost implications than other storage options.

RBS is most easily explained by considering the two parts to content stored in SharePoint – being the metadata and the file itself. RBS takes the second component out of the SQL database and places it on other devices. The advantage of this approach is it allows SharePoint designers to get around the built in capacity limits of SharePoint, allowing for more content to appear in your site, without worrying about the potential performance impact on your environment.

Show don’t tell

As we loop a lot of our subject matter and project outcomes back to User Adoption (UA), it would be remiss of us not to make mention of it in the context of enterprise video. Like any business communications tool, if it doesn’t get visibility throughout your business, UA will be low. So get your employees on-board and utilising these important resources by educating them about how to access and upload video content into SharePoint. Activities like creating video library communities and sharing new video content by embedding it in a social feed will help in this regard.

Want to know more about how to integrate video content into your SharePoint environment? Get in touch with one of our SharePoint consultants today.

* Ask questions, join discussions and pick up insights about Microsoft SharePoint and Office 365 via our dedicated LinkedIn group, The SharePoint Experience.

Responsive web design or SharePoint device channels: Which one is the new black?

In an industry where trends and buzz words are coined on an every-other-minute basis, it’s easy to get a rush of blood and jump headfirst into the latest solution du jour. We love the fact that innovation is the cornerstone of our industry, and are incredibly passionate about pushing the envelope for our clients. But not all solutions are a suitable fit for every business – so today we’re putting responsive and adaptive web design and SharePoint 2013 device channels under the microscope.

In previous blogs we have looked at the implications of mobile device usage from a number of angles, and this conversation fits under the same umbrella. We know that the way people are consuming information continues to shift, with mobile devices generating more web traffic than ever before. As user needs have evolved, so have the practices and theories for delivering a superior User Experience (UX) being used by IT and web development professionals.

First, let’s take a look at the basic principles of each philosophy.

Responsive web design is about rendering the same website for optimised viewing on different devices. In technical terms, responsive sites are built upon multiple fluid grid layouts which utilise ‘media queries’ to detect which device is being used before sizing the grids and images accordingly.

Adaptive web design is built upon multiple fixed width layouts, which tailor themselves to a deliver rich, layered experience on whichever device a person is using. Adaptive sites use a theory called ‘progressive enhancement’ to first deliver a level of basic content, which is built upon as the browser or device becomes more advanced.

SharePoint device channels is a is a technology which allows you to render a publishing site in multiple views on different devices. To achieve this level of flexibility, SharePoint lets your predefined channels render pages using separate master pages.

If you’re thinking they sound similar, you’d be right. The aim of all three practices is to present an optimised UX on various devices. However it’s the manner in which they do so which differs, with responsive sites heavily reliant on CSS3 media queries, while adaptive sites use layers of scripts to help a site adjust to different screens/devices and SharePoint 2013 device channels relying on device channel parameters and multiple master pages.

Case study – RACT custom mobile site

Let’s take a look at our recent client RACT, a major state-wide insurer in Australia who have just shy of 200k active members. As part of a major IT infrastructure upgrade we built RACT a new corporate intranet, public website and mobile platform. The vision for the mobile platform was that it be convenient, user-friendly and focus on the key information a customer would need while ‘on the go’ (for example branch contact details, available services and petrol price watch). The mobile site also needed to be fast.

Simply recreating the master website for users with responsive web design would not have achieved this goal, as it would have presented the user with too much information and required them to scroll and search. Utilising the mobile development features of SharePoint 2013, we created a custom mobile site which delivered the information members needed straight into their hands.

The strength of this solution is that it took more than just device and browser limitation into consideration, but also user needs and physical location as well. Recognising that members were unlikely to want full site while ‘on the go’ – SharePoint 2013 gave us the flexibility to design a solution to fit.

So, do we need a fully responsive site or not?

In our experience there is a time and a place for both, and the two practices can even be combined. For example, you could create a mobile view using device channels in SharePoint 2013, but then apply responsive web design to ensure that the mobile site scales correctly to all device sizes.

As with most IT projects, it always comes back to discovering who your users are, how they consume information and what you really want to achieve. If your mobile traffic is minimal, responsive web design might be a good solution, as spending time and money on a purpose built mobile site is not likely to deliver a significant ROI. Or, if your organisation utilises SharePoint site for real time collaboration, and regularly adds or amends content/sites/documents, responsive web design is the best way to ensure pages will adapt to your content.

However, if you are attracting or want to attract mobile device traffic, it’s worth sitting down to work out how, when, where and why people are using your site, and then building an optimised experience based on these real user interactions. Creating a tablet strategy is an extremely worthwhile exercise at this point to establish the business justification and objectives of creating a mobile site.

As a test, grab your smart phone or tablet and search for the first thing that springs to mind. Are you seeing a full website or a tailored mobile site? How is this effecting your experience? Remember this is what your users, be they customers or employees, will go through when they interact with your site. To discuss responsive or adaptive web design, or SharePoint 2013 device channels, in greater detail, jump over a start a Live Chat on our website.