To go responsive, or not to go responsive?
That is actually not the question. In the multi-device, multi-screen world of the workplace, the question is not whether or not to adopt a responsive design for any business website, but rather when to do that.
With increasing numbers of mobile devices used by everyone, more and more business problems solved or eased by these devices in the workplace, and higher demands and expectations from the modern, mobile employees, it's only a matter of time until responsive design will take over the virtual world. Businesses need to adapt to this reality and make efforts to provide a total mobile user experience for their employees.
User experience has an enormous power over knowledge transfer. Since any training session — with a special focus on an online course — has everything to do with knowledge transfer, I invite you to tune in and consider the main benefits that responsive design can bring to the delivery of learning materials through a business LMS.
But before we dive into that, an important differentiation must be made:
Responsive design vs. adaptive design
To the untrained eye, these two types of web design seem almost the same: they both are definitely not static and they render well on the three most used screen sizes: desktop PC, tablet and smartphone.
Basically, instead of specifying the exact dimension in pixels of a certain web block — an image, a video, a text column, and so on — the responsive / adaptive code specifies a percentage, and the same web block modifies its dimensions based on the type of device used to access it.
However, a trained eye can spot considerable differences between responsive design and adaptive design. Froont has a great post about this and I wholeheartedly recommend you to check it out: 9 basic principles of responsive web design.
The main thing you should remember is that adaptive design requires at least three versions of the same code — for the three main types of devices — while responsive design needs only one. Another thing that is worth mentioning is that the three versions of adaptive code can easily provide a poor user experience for anyone using screen sizes that are not the most common.
Now let's move on to the most interesting part of this post:
Benefits of an LMS with responsive design
Consistent user experience
By experiencing the same user interface on all devices, learners can focus more on their learning materials and less on any technical inconveniences.
Tablets are on their way to become the most preferred device for workplace learning, slowly leaving behind the bigger but more fixed devices (desktop PC and laptops), while mobile phones are best to support just-in-time learning, as employees usually keep them at arm's reach all the time.
Responsive design makes it possible for learners to access the same course any time, anywhere, and be able to get new knowledge at the point of need. This will eventually impact employee productivity in a positive way.
Don't get me wrong, the maintenance of an LMS is not necessarily simple. But you must agree that it is simpler to support one system with one code instead of three variants of the same code — as is the case with adaptive design. One change in one document can do the trick.
You may need a bigger or more experienced team of developers to build the responsive code (compared to a static one) but once you have it, it's easy to maintain. In time, this translates to savings on company resources, like time and money.
Increased audience reach
An LMS with responsive design means that it can offer learners a total mobile user experience, as it can be accessed from all devices, with no exception.
You cannot always control the number and types of devices your employees use at work. You also need all of them to be able to access your training materials, no matter if they have older versions of smartphones, or simply have screen sizes that are not the most common.
In case you consider selling your online courses, you need to attract as many people that might be interested to enroll. Optimizing your course home page for search engines will surely give you a hand with this, and having to worry about one URL is better than doing the same for three or more. Plus, Google algorithms favor mobile versions of websites when people use mobile devices for search.
One last tip
Whether you just started creating courses with the help an LMS with responsive design, or you plan to do so and make all your old courses responsive as well, you need to pay special attention to your most appealing, visual content. I'm talking about the battle between Flash and HTML5. Check out this blog about what could be your best option in terms of responsive design and mobile accessibility: Online multimedia content in e-learning: Flash vs. HTML5.