How adaptive content can create a truly useful user experience


In the digital world, the user must be at the forefront of every design decision. It is no longer enough to simply have a responsive site. Websites now need to be truly adaptive by tailoring their content to a customer’s experience, behavior, and desires.

We’ve touched upon adaptive content in our Site Spotlight feature. The coffee shop Haven: tailoring coffee joyously, for example, could offer a more intuitive and helpful user journey to customers viewing their site on a mobile device.

So, when and how can adaptive content create a truly useful user experience?

Creating adaptive content for different devices

It is important that at the very least a site is responsive to whichever device it’s viewed on. Compuware found that over half of users who had a bad mobile experience wouldn’t recommend the site, and by extension, would probably go to a competitor’s site in the future.

How adaptive content can create a truly useful user experience - The Guardian Responsive Site

Responsive design shouldn’t be where the user experience stops though. There are so many unique features to each device that simply aren’t utilised with responsive design. This is where adaptive design comes in to strengthen and shape a truly useful user journey.

Studies indicate that there’s a huge demand from users for an immersive and intuitive cross-channel experience. Walker Sands’ 2014 study exploring the future of retail found that over half of users would be more likely to shop at a retailer if they offered in-store navigation or self-checkout on a mobile device.

How adaptive content can create a truly useful user experience - Scandit

Furthermore, 55% of teens use voice search more than once a day so by simply adding the ability for users to use the microphone on their mobile you start to build a much more useful user experience for a site that users are more likely to return.

It doesn’t stop with mobiles though. Netflix acknowledged that their users’ needs would be different on tv-connected devices so they updated their user interface for these devices to give their users genuinely helpful functionality that had been specifically designed for TV screens. This included an easier way to search, supported by pointer-based navigation on Smart TVs and voice functionality on the Xbox 360. The kids area was re-designed too with a pale blue background and a subtle “kids” label so parents could see from a distance that their children were using the appropriate part of Netflix.

Enhancing the user experience with personalisation

There’s no easier way to connect with users on an emotional level than to show you care through the use of personalisation. 94% of business acknowledge that personalisation is critical to their success, whilst personalisation can increase conversion rates by 70%.

An e-commerce site will have a user’s purchase history so there’s no reason they can’t include products on their home page that correspond to these. Amazon, in particular, are pioneers in mining and using data effectively to create an intuitive user journey and encourage the user to make a purchase.

How adaptive content can create a truly useful user experience - Amazon personalisation

Furthermore, it can act as an effective tool to engage and make them more likely to return to your site in the future.

That said, personalisation is difficult to get right without seeming “creepy” and repelling users because a site seems to know too much about them. Personalisation should always remain honest, helpful and relevant and only be used to improve the user journey and provide a better user experience.

Other elements that can influence adaptive content to improve the user experience

Time of the day

How adaptive content can create a truly useful user experience - TomTom GPS device

A GPS navigational device will offer adaptive content based on a user’s needs. The interface colour automatically changes when the sun sets or whilst driving through a tunnel to a darker “night mode” so as not to blind or distract the driver with a bright light from the device.


A user’s device can recognise their exact location when they visit a site. It would be helpful for a retail store, for example, to utilise this by offering directions to their nearest store as standard. However, they can use adaptive content if the user is accessing the site from within the store. This could mean presenting the user with special offers or providing directions to the closest till to really enhance the shopping experience.

User behaviour

How adaptive content can create a truly useful user experience - restaruants Google search

Google considers and records users’ search queries, alongside other variables such as location, to get a better understanding of their intent and provide the most useful and relevant content for consequent search results. Google instant can also recognise when a user starts a research session and, coupled with the user’s search history, will adapt their autocomplete feature accordingly to suggest the most useful and relevant terms.

Google proves that effective adaptive content can be subtle and very simple, yet be incredibly helpful to the overall user experience.

In conclusion…

We need to re-adjust our thinking to believe that making content contextually appropriate for all channels, devices, and scenarios act as complimentary pieces to build up an immersive user journey. Of course, there’s the challenge of implementing the technology and creating the content in the first place, but the benefits to the user and the brand far outweigh any of these hurdles.

We are now in a position where we can focus on individual user journeys and identify how they can be improved as a user’s needs change based on a variety of variables. Yet, time and again we witness missed opportunities where companies could embrace adaptive content. We have previously written about our 2015 prediction that will see more companies invest in a stronger customer experience by offering adaptive content. Let’s hope that this year we see companies successfully utilise this approach to create truly useful user journeys and thus a superior user experience.

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