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I've heard collagues refer to their responsive web projects, but then I've also heard people say that they are working on their cross-channel web projects. Is there a difference in these two terms? or do they really mean the same thing?

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Let me provide you with insight of Multichannel as its just an antonym to the Cross-Channel term.

Multi-channel is a way of delivering services that allows users / customers to interact with the system through a number of different channels and enables successful completion of tasks through any number of these in complete and discrete fashion. The typical example is the way you can interact with a bank: you can use a dedicated phone number, go to the website, use a mobile application, or walk to the closest branch. In any of these channels, you can perform a varying number of tasks from start to finish without resorting to any other channel.

Cross-channel offers a different stance from both multi-channel and cross-media: the single channel might or might not offer a complete entry point into the ecosystem, but the fact is that most of the users / customers will not stay in that channel from point A to point Z. In other words, it might very well be that in a ubiquitous ecology some channels do allow users to complete their experiential journey without resorting to other channels.

Nielsen Cross Channel article also explains "Users engage with companies and organizations across many channels, including the web, email, mobile devices, kiosks, online chat, and by visiting physical locations (such as storefronts or service centers)".

In my perspective the narration to this is -

  1. It explains the fact that even physical components like store-fronts to be part of Cross-Channel which by no means is reflective of digital manipulation.
  2. Cross-Channel can cut through the digital and physical area just like a liquid and ideally manifested as a business term more than a technical term that largely speaks up as a UX Strategy rather than UX Tactic
  3. In technical perspective Responsive Design (tactical point) would just be a sub-set of Cross-Channel Experience, aiding its fulfillment.
  4. Cross-channel can also related to Social Channels where it speaks on Customer Journey and as a business/user ecosystem. Certain channels may not be responsive but just a touch-point (or a medium of link, transfer or connection).

In all both the terms you refer to is different and the project lifecycle is also different.

You would not call this to be Cross-channel Web and Responsive Web. The term "Web" will not condense the entire ecosystem and also a broader term.

Example The Heineken Departure Roulette campaign forms part of the Dutch beer company’s ‘Dropped’ campaign.

The Heineken Departure Roulette video is not an isolated campaign. It is intended to promote a web series entitled “Dropped” which is about three men – Rikar, Stavros and William who have been randomly dropped into remote destinations around the world – Alaska, Cambodia and Morocco respectively. A fourth, yet unnamed man will be dropped in August in another remote location. The gist of Heineken’s ‘Dropped’ campaign is to show that a legendary journey is not planned but is one that is born out of spontaneity. The cross-channel User Experience to send out this message is immediately visible in the re-branding that has been effected on Heineken’s official website, YouTube channel, Facebook page, Twitter channel and Instagram account. What I find as being particularly interesting is that the branding has been effected on the official channels and not on sub-channels which have been created for this particular campaign. This continues to emphasize the concentrated effort to send a clear, cross-channel user experience by eliminating the possibility that the user gets a mixed message by visiting an ‘official’ channel and a campaign-specific channel.

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When referring to responsive web projects, I assume that it is in reference to designing for different channels of access for the user. This could be in terms of the device and viewport that the designer needs to cater for.

When referring to cross-channel web projects, I take this to mean either one of two things:

  • Projects that involve adaptive or responsive design approaches that cater for multiple devices and viewports
  • Projects that involve building pages and content for different audience channels, i.e. stand-alone website, smart phone apps, facebook pages, pop-up advertising, etc.

I am interested to hear if other people have different opinions about this. A related question on UXSE: What is Cross-Channel?

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