How Important is Responsive Design to Your Advocacy Efforts?
Responsive web design, sometimes abbreviated as RWD, is an approach to building websites that seeks to render the same experience for your reader irrespective of the device or machine she is using to visit your site: phone, tablet, laptop, super big monitor, etc.
If you’re on a laptop or desktop and you want to know if the site you’re on is responsive, collapse your browser window down to a size slightly smaller than the full width of your screen, then move the right edge of your browser in, leftward – if the site adjusts itself proportionally in response to the reduction in browser width, then the site is responsive.
Hint: The site you’re on right now, Connectivity, is responsive. Give it a whirl if you’re on a laptop or desktop.
Now comes some news that you’ll want to pay attention to: – total mobile traffic on the web surpassed total desktop traffic on the web in 2014.
If your organization’s site is not responsive or, alternatively, if you don’t have a separate site dedicated to mobile, you might be walling off engagement opportunities – because the mobile trend is only going to increase.
“If you do not have a mobile-friendly website, you are dead,” said John Foley, CEO/CMO of interlinkONE in Wilmington, Mass., which provides online marketing consulting and social media services for a wide range of associations. “You need to do that tomorrow.”
Numerous studies, including one by Knotice in 2013, indicate that adopting a responsive approach to emails increases open rates because mobile users are more likely to open emails on smartphones than on desktops. Transitioning to a responsive approach also offers a return-on-investment in structuring online capacities to incorporate new technologies.
So, how difficult is it to transition to responsive, particularly in reference to emails, and why should associations, trade groups and nonprofits make the plunge sooner than later?
“It definitely depends on what you are starting with. Typically, it is a fairly involved undertaking. It’s not super easy,” said David Hartstein, a partner at Wired Impact of St. Louis, Mo. “If you are already using an email provider, that is the place to start” asking about transitioning to a responsive approach.
Hartstein said Wired Impact, which exclusively works with nonprofits, has developed responsive platforms for a range of clients that include Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals of Greater St. Louis, Rhode Island School of Design, Missouri Community Healthcare Co-Op and the St. Louis Regional Health Commission.
There are several things to consider when pondering a move to responsive, Hartstein said. “How much of a priority is your website in serving your constituency? How are people finding you? How are you driving traffic to your site?”
The Measurable Impact of Responsive Emails
In its 2013 study, Knotice documented that mobile users opened at least half the emails viewed on smartphones, a far greater open rate than emails delivered on desktops.
This is critical for associations issuing calls-to-action, said Kristyn Brady, Director of Media Relations for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership based in Washington D.C.
“Advocacy has to be easy because, otherwise, folks are not going to engage,” she said. With a responsive format, “Now they can send a letter from their email with a tap of their finger. They are very easy to read on the phone, easy to engage with.”
TRCP, a non-profit coalition of 1,400 conservation organizations, labor unions, and 35,000 individual members that advocates for public lands conservation and access, transitioned to responsive in 2014, Brady said.
“I knew from my time in the magazine world that when (a former employer) went to RWD, readership grew exponentially — not by the year, but by the month,” she said. “We use it for action alerts. Seeing it on your phone, it adds to the sense of urgency and people are more likely to open it and respond.”
Another benefit, according to Kristen Prather, Grassroots Manager at the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) in Madison, Wisc., is that the responsive approach allows for the incorporation of graphics, such as logos, into emails.
“Typically, when we are doing a grassroots action, having our logo in the email gives messaging legitimacy, recognition,” she said. “Our members see it and say, ‘Oh, I need to pay attention to this.'”
Since CUNA went to a responsive approach, it has garnered a 50-55 percent open rate, which is “super, super high,” and a 20-25 percent click-through rate, which is “exceptional,” Prather said.
When emails go to CUNA’s 300,000 members, 150,000 open it and 75,000 respond, she said. “This identity is very, very important to our members. If they see the logo of their credit union, they are very likely to open it.”
TRCP’s Brady noted that going to a responsive approach not only enhanced the efficacy of the organization’s email calls-to-action, but improved its internal communications. “We have remote staff all over the country so it’s a benefit even among ourselves in reading emails between different staff,” she said.
Brady said TRCP opted not to transition its website to be responsive. “Since our campaign work is more important, we prioritized (RWD) for our emails. The next step is to make our website RWD soon. It would be shortsighted not to.”
Andrea Santos, Marketing & Engagement Coordinator at the American Health Lawyers Association (AHLA) in Washington, D.C., said her association is pondering a move to RWD for its emails and website but hasn’t green-lighted the transition yet.
“Part of the challenge is balancing our budget with our technology costs,” she said. “We are trying to integrate increasing (email) response rates with spending on technology in our strategic plan to improve and implement best practices. The new thing, the emphasis, will be on responsive design.”
But in a mobile-first world, the costs of being invisible in “mobile space” are incalculable, InterlinkONE’s Foley said. For every moment a website or email is not viewable on a smartphone or tablet, he said, “The door for everybody to enter your palace is closed.”
Association & Nonprofit Responsive Sites
Looking for inspiration? Here are 12 association and nonprofit sites that are responsive:
- The National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (http://nglcc.org)
- Solar Energy Industries Association (http://www.seia.org)
- International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (http://iatse.net)
- America Association of Endodontists (http://www.aae.org)
- National Association of Letter Carriers AFL-CIO (http://www.nalc.org)
- AARP (http://member.aarp.org)
- American Chemical Society (http://www.acs.org/content/acs/en.html)
- Service Employees International Union (http://www.seiu.org)
- National Rifle Association (http://home.nra.org)
- American Diabetes Association (http://www.diabetes.org)
- American Psychological Association (http://www.apa.org/index.aspx)
- Society for Human Resource Management (http://www.shrm.org/pages/default.aspx)