I’m going to start this article off at a dinner party.
Let’s say you’re going to your parents’ house with your partner for a nice dinner. You really want to bring dessert, but 4 of the people that will be there have wildly different preferences. You’re a red velvet fanatic, but your partner much prefers cookies & cream. Your parents also have their differences, one preferring mint chocolate chip and the other pure chocolate and nothing but pure chocolate. Wanting to please everyone, you decide to bring cupcakes, a unique one for each person.
Let’s take a moment to really think about what a cupcake is (I promise there’s something more to this than trying to make you all hungry!). Cupcakes are great because they allow a person to get the experience of a cake but in a smaller form. In this dinner party example, you can satisfy everyone involved by essentially buying 4 small cakes instead of 4 full-sized cakes that would never get finished (and cost you a small fortune).
Unfortunately, many content creators continue to think of the mobile web (meaning accessing web content via a smartphone or tablet) as something distinct from a more substantial desktop computer. This often can result in a visitor that is using a mobile device being presented with the option to load either the Mobile or Desktop version (read: Crappy or Clunky version). Implicit in this setup is the assumption that a person using a smartphone to access a website doesn’t want the full experience of the website they are going to because they are not using a desktop computer. If you think of the cupcake example (where mobile = cupcakes and desktop = cake), it’s kind of like telling your parents you’re bringing cake and you show up with 4 cans of frosting. Yes, that’s one element of a cake, but it’s definitely not the same thing.
Fortunately, the world is starting to recognize that being ready for any device isn’t just important – it’s essential. According to a survey of over 1,000 U.S. smartphone users, 61% said that if they didn’t find what they were looking for right away on a mobile site, they’d quickly move on to another site.
Unless you don’t care about sending over half of your potential audience away (which I’m willing to bet you aren’t interested in) it’s about time that you become familiar with the term cross-platform.
What is "cross-platform"?
Cross-platform refers to an item (whether it’s a website, video, game, and so on) that can be fully accessed on more than one device. This is a great way to not only reach more people but also to make more people happy, since no matter how a person accesses your content, they are going to get a great experience that works best for them.
How does cross-platform work?
Another way to think of cross-platform is creating something that is any-device-ready. There are different ways of achieving this, which will vary depending on your particular case.
One form of cross-platform design is creating versions of your item for various devices that are technically built a little different but appear the same to the end-user. So, for instance, though Angry Birds appears to be the same game whether you are playing it on your iPhone, Nexus 5 or in Chrome on your PC, each version actually has slightly different coding that pertains to the device that you are playing on.
Another form of cross-platform (which we have actually used ourselves to develop Hubs) is called responsive design. This is a design-once-for-all approach, where your item will work and be optimized for every device that it is accessed by. This article is a great example of responsive design. If you’re using a smartphone or tablet, you can already see that the website is properly formatted for you. If you’re on a desktop, try resizing your web browser from big to really small. You’ll see that the text layout changes accordingly, and even the toolbar at the top of the page adjusts as well!
How does cross-platform benefit your audience?
Going back to the cake example (I think I’m going to need to go buy a cake after I’m done writing this), think of the Internet as a bakery. In this example, we have 2 side-by-side bakeries:
Bakery A only sells birthday cakes.
Bakery B sells not just birthday cakes but anniversary cakes, graduation cakes, wedding cakes, coffee cakes, spongecakes, fruitcakes, cheesecakes and yes, of course, cupcakes.
Bakery B is clearly the better choice, since it has a ton of cakes that vary depending on size and occasion, which will appeal to more people in different scenarios.
Online, there’s definitely no shortage of content. If your content does not work when a person attempts to access it, you’ve pretty much guaranteed that your hard work will be skipped over. And, believe it or not, that’s not even the worst that can happen. A poor experience can actually leave your visitors feeling frustrated that your content does not work for them.
How does cross-platform benefit you?
In the case of responsive design, it can potentially be less costly to be ready for every device. If you’re creating a separate experience for numerous devices, this means a lot more time and effort for a less seamless experience. When it comes time to update your content, you then have to update each and every source. With responsive design, you would only need to update once, which lets you focus more on creating new content rather than wasting your time with maintenance. Ultimately, creating content that’s cross-platform makes your content look great, which makes your audience happy, which makes your brand look awesome.
Got any great examples of cross-platform design? Let us know in the comments below!
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