It was actually said by Jon Beech (@_jonb) on twitter and sparked a conversation about how senior officials could test the ‘lived experience’ of service users by trying to access their organisation’s website using a mobile phone. It’s been rattling around inside my head for a while and found its way out in the surroundings of a WordPress Users Wales meeting this week on responsive design.
I knew this was an important point when I first read it, and this is how it makes sense to me after the meeting. A few factual statements first:
- People use websites to find out what services are delivered by organisations;
- For large parts of society the Internet is the primary route they use;
- Many people are using mobile devices (mobile phones, tablets etc) to access the Internet;
- The percentage of people using mobile devices to do this is continuing to increase;
- Many websites have historically been designed to be viewed from a desktop or laptop computer; and
- Viewing a website designed for a large desktop screen, on a much smaller mobile phone screen can be a real hassle (go and try it out for yourself).
This is was why I was listening to James Cryer talk about responsive design at the WordPress meeting. In essence, responsive web design is about how websites are ‘responsive’ to the device on which they are viewed. The way that content is displayed will change to ensure that the reader has the best possible viewing experience for the size of screen they are using. This isn’t just about getting smaller (desktop to mobile), James pointed out that getting bigger (desktop to large screen TV) also offers challenges.
Using responsive design is helpful if you want your service users to understand what your organisation does. The easier it is to find and read the content on your website, using whatever device people choose (increasingly likely to be a mobile phone), the better it is for everyone.
So, why should this matter to your average CEO?
In the busy life of a CEO it is going to be difficult to ‘go back to the floor”, visit every department or take part in a ‘mystery shopper’ exercise. However, trying to access one of your services using a mobile phone is something you could do in a spare 5 minutes waiting for a train, sitting in a taxi or quietly in a senior management team meeting. This straight forward exercise would put you directly in the shoes of service users, a sort of virtual mystery shopper exercise. If your website isn’t responsive, I wonder how it will feel? It is a relatively low effort and possibly high impact activity, why not have a go?
Back to the WordPress responsive design ‘live demo’ session. Someone suggested it would be interesting to see if there were any good examples of responsive public sector websites in Wales……….. errrr….right.
Anyway, have a look at one we found for the Central London Community Healthcare NHS Trust. I’ve included a few screen shots of the site on a tablet and a phone. The point to note here is the location of clinics and other facilities is responsive and works brilliantly on the small screens. Just what you need if you are using a mobile phone and need to find the location of a facility. Interestingly the responsive elements of this site were developed involving someone who that was at the WordPress meeting and works in Wales, Craig Cartwright at precedent.co.uk. Nice one!
So, what’s the PONT?
- The move towards greater use of mobile devices means that websites need to be designed with this in mind.
- Responsive design is a way of changing web content to fit different devices and make it easier to read the content.
- Checking services using only a mobile phone would be a cheap and effective method for CEO’s to do some virtual mystery shopping, and see things from the perspective of a service user.
Thanks very much to James Cryer for an excellent presentation at the WordPress Users Wales meeting. You can pick up James’ presentation here. http://www.slideshare.net/jamescryer/rwd-wordpress
Picture Source: This looks interesting. North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare NHS Trust Mystery Shopper Programme. http://www.combined.nhs.uk/ourservices/Pages/shopper.aspx
Explanatory leaflet available here: http://www.combined.nhs.uk/dc/Documents/Mystery%20Shopper%20faqs.pdf
Central London Community Healthcare ‘locations’ viewed on a tablet, followed by the same information on a mobile phone, try it out yourself.