Content in Context – the move towards adaptive design

By | May 30, 2016

Content which is created in discrete fields within a CMS is ideal for use with an adaptive website design. This structured content enables content designers to future-proof their content, to include semantic tags so that it is eminently findable and, most practically, to support a ‘create once, publish everywhere’ methodology.

Those sites which are not deemed mobile-friendly by search engines are not favoured by the search algorithms, so it is in the interest of all organisations to explore the options of how best to address the needs of their customers and to engage them on any device at any time. Responsive design and adaptive design are the two terms which are bandied around and there is often confusion around the content structure. However, the content can be managed in a relatively straightforward manner if the relevant infrastructure is in place.

A simple responsive site is one on which the content responds to the device on which it is being viewed. A fully responsive, and mobile-friendly site, has a single column layout that works well on a small screen. You may have noticed many of these sites appearing during the last couple of years – a distinct improvement on trying to view a desktop site which has been resized and doesn’t translate effectively to mobile. They have a very simple layout and navigation and, when viewed on a desktop, look wider than traditional multi-column websites as there is no navigation at the side. This enables them to adjust to any layout and meet users’ requirements of viewing their content on myriad devices.

Adaptive design, although enabling a similar appearance for users, employs the deployment of content which can adapt in substance as well as visual experience so the delivery of the content itself is tailored to the user. This makes adaptive content an obvious choice for personalisation.

In The Language of Content Strategy, Charles Cooper defines adaptive content:

“[Adaptive] content is designed to adapt to the needs of the customer, not just cosmetically, but also in substance and in capability. Adaptive content automatically responds to the screen size and orientation of any device, but goes further by displaying relevant content that takes full advantage of the specific capabilities of the device being used.”

Adaptive content can be defined by factors other than the device itself, such as the person or the context. This gives content creators the scope to create several content variants in the CMS which can be used in different scenarios, as an example, content designers can create a long description and a short description, one for desktops and the other for mobiles. However, this is also where the importance of the metadata comes into play, ensuring that the system knows what to deliver and when.

By its very nature, structured content is presentation independent, each element having its own field in the CMS so that it is fully reusable. This ‘thoughtful’ content offers businesses flexibility around their content creation and messaging, ensures consistency across devices and formats and the option of future personalization. What’s not to like?