Justyna, we have a little challenge – said Witek one fine day, and I already knew it wasn’t good.
Have you already planned your vacation? asked Tomek, at which point I knew that nothing would be the same anymore. Because if you made the down payment, you should switch dates, so that it isn’t wasted. You won’t have much time until November. But don’t worry, November and December are both good months for visiting Egypt, temperatures should be less than 50 C.
Seriously though, I was really worried what the “higher echelons” of the company held in store for me. After all, it was just the beginning of March, I was already working on several “challenges” for just 4 months, while here we were talking about a “challenge” that would take 9 months of my life!
This is how we started the global process that was migration of websites of our main client, Renault, to a responsive platform, which adjusts itself to parameters of devices that it is viewed on.
Until that moment, each country, according to its plans and resources, decided how their website would look like. And so, the portal of Middle Eastern countries chose Responsive Web Design as soon as they were offered the chance.
Picture 1 Layout of a responsive website that adjusts to parameters of devices on which its viewed.
Other countries did not rush with introducing changes of such importance on their sites – perhaps they were not fully aware that they needed a refresh, and changes in readability of presented content was necessary given the quickly changing habits of Web users. In recent years, the number of people browsing the Web by means of mobile devices has grown significantly, and their needs are much different when sitting in front of huge screens and navigating websites using a mouse pointer. Potentials client begin their journey across the Web spontaneously in any given location or during any moment of the day, using small touchscreen devices. They heard something, thought about something, and they want concrete information on the spot. For example, they heard the ad for Renault Kadjar on the radio – and instead of waiting, they want to learn more here and now. They take their phone or tablet and begin browsing Renault’s websites immediately.
If one reaches an non-responsive version of the site, it would be more likely that they would get fed up before actually finding anything – the site would have to be zoomed out, and it would be impossible to navigate across it without zooming in, with text and images small and illegible. The site’s structure would be overly complicated, with detailed information hidden deep within. And the worst part is that you’d have to use your fingers for selecting tiny tabs and buttons, designed for the precise mouse cursor and a big screen… But your mouse was left on its cable beside your long forgotten PC!
Picture 2 Non-responsive website displayed on a mobile screen.
This is were we offered our help – MakoLab redesigned the sites so that their usage on smartphones and tablets became nice and easy. Parameters transform themselves so that website text does not loose readability, navigation is much easier and the site’s structure is simpler. Menus and links are enlarged accordingly, images are resized to fit different screen resolutions, whereas video clips are provided in such formats, that they can be easily watched on smartphones and tablets, and will not stop just because Internet connectivity was broken for a while. This is when the user begins to feel comfortable, because everything works and looks the way it should, and one can focus on finding necessary information in a pleasant, satisfactory manner. No need to fight tiny texts and volumes of scrolling anymore. This is the power of advertising – when a potential client hears the new slogan “Start living”, they may actually start browsing right away, without having to go home and launch their desktop computer.
Picture 3. Responsive version of the site displayed on tablets and smartphones.
An important distinction between Responsive Web Design and providing traditional mobile versions of websites lies in the fact that RWD-based sites have a single source code that is transformed according to the device used. A mobile version on the other hand, is a separate file with a different address (usually with the ‘m’ prefix, e.g. http://m.address.com). An RWD website will be accessible under the same address and respond accordingly. This has several advantages, for example, if one sends a regular ‘mobile’ address from a smartphone to a PC, the PC will often open the stretched-out mobile version of the site – which makes no sense on a big screen of a desktop computer. A responsive website opens the proper version automatically, regardless of the device used.
Unfortunately for me, it was indeed quite a challenge – the humorous warning were justified. There were 31 countries, some of which had non-responsive websites in two languages, which together resulted in 41 instances for “immediate migration” – as it was firmly stated by Renault’s headquarters in France. After all, I’m just a regular content specialist, and I was supposed to conduct migration of Renault’s websites scattered around the globe and in all possible languages. Fortunately for me, the operation had to be done as efficiently and professionally as possible, hence two additional persons were hired.
After a quick training in the usage of our CMS (Content Management System), and with help of our developers, we began in mid-March. Communication with the many countries was in itself a time-consuming task. Although Renault’s headquarters made sure that both we, MakoLab, and their regional offices work according to schedule – there were obstacles along the way. Here a holiday in Eastern Orthodox countries, there a vacation in Muslim countries… And there was more – personal vacations, winter holidays, national celebrations and other periods during which communication ceased…
Despite such hindrances, we did all we could to stick to the initial assumptions – after establishing the order in which consecutive migrations would take place, we initiated communication regarding migrations to the new responsive CMS. We informed particular countries that they should check their own content so that it is up-to-date at the moment of migration. Afterwards, we began the process itself. Obviously not everything happened automatically – after moving the content from the old platform to the new one, our 3-person team spent long hours on bug fixing. When a give site looked good, a country had a designated period of time for validation – checking the quality of content. After all, with languages such as Arabic, Hebrew, Farsi and Chinese we had no way of knowing whether the content is understandable for their future users. Such obstacles could not be prevented, but they did manage to complicate our work and postpone finishing the migration of particular countries. At one point, we had processes initiated for 12 countries at the same time. Finally, the seemingly pleasant phase of migration would come – however, never underestimate human creativity and sheer bad luck! Some countries decided to publish their new sites in the CMS without consulting us, even before the proper works were still taking place. In such cases, we had to step in to save the day and restore old versions of websites. Another country migrated the old website twice, which resulted in duplication of every website… Yet another office decided to improve the CMS on their own – already having a beautiful new, fully responsive website. This brought even more errors and bugs.
As you can see, there was no time for boredom. With such challenges to overcome, we finished the migration process of websites of all countries at the beginning of September, which turned out to be a great result, since it was assumed that if there were no delays or errors at all, the process would be completed at the end of August. Users of Renault’s websites in countries supported by MakoLab are now able to focus on discovering the brand and its individual models on any device, without any problems related to legibility or navigation on a mobile device. Renault now has a range of cutting-edge websites with coherent visual appearance, and the staff responsible for supporting websites has an easier job. Editing the sites and their content is now much easier thanks to the new responsive CMS; it became more intuitive and one can be sure that it is displayed properly on any given device.
At the end of the entire project, Renault’s headquarters thanked us for the intensive cooperation and called it a complete success. Now we can relax and focus on other projects, making sure that the functionalities and layouts created by MakoLab get better and better.