In 2011, Hertz’s mobile traffic accounted for 4% of its Hertz.com total traffic. In 2012, that number rose to 12% — and the company only expects it to rise in the coming years, says Joseph Eckroth, Hertz’s chief information officer.
As a response to the growing mobile traffic, which includes tablet use, and in anticipation of the growth in this segment, Hertz overhauled its website in order to offer responsive web design.
A responsive website changes its formatting depending on where it’s being viewed — on a desktop, tablet or smartphone. Triggers set into the HTML coding of the website dictate how the site re-formats for friendlier views. (Learn more about responsive web design at the end of this article.)
Allowing this flexibility between screen sizes means that no matter where a person sees the site, it’s in the most user-friendly format for the device. This flexibility is particularly important with the growing number of mobile users.
“We know that 24 months from now [mobile] is not going to be an interesting phenomena but a dominant channel,” Eckroth says, adding that Hertz’s move toward this design is focused on the customer experience.
“We want to have every advantage as mobile grows, and we want people to come to us first and never leave us,” he says. “The only way to do that is by making that experience extraordinarily user-friendly, fast and easy, and then you give them what they want on the device or the browser they want it on, and the HTML responds in the design.”
Click to enlarge.
An In-House Effort
“The learning curve was quite steep,” says Luv Tulsidas, director of Hertz’s web development, on the research that went into responsive web design. The company built sample sites beforehand in order to learn what hurdles they would need to jump in applying this concept to Hertz.com. “We were well prepared,” he says.
Once the company decided to tackle the project, Tulsidas says it took about three months to complete the process, which includes testing — the longest part of rolling out a responsive web design. Hertz used a community of 2,000-plus customers in order to get feedback on which aspects of the site should be focused on while still fitting the screen size of the device.
Eckroth says the testing focused on these two main questions: Would you use this website again and would you recommend it?
One of the purposes of responsive web design is to make the website the same across mobile devices, so each type of device had to be tested as well. “One of the things that’s very important for us is brand consistency,” Tulsidas says, adding that certain usability factors, such as the ability to tap links easily on a touchscreen, had to be considered. Getting real people to test the site on different devices played an important role in how these usability factors affected the layout of each screen.
Another important factor for Hertz is that the company has at least some promotional material that is viewable no matter what device is being used. “From a business perspective, we want to optimize for that as well, and make sure we have the optimal real estate up front and center for some of our promotional stuff,” Eckroth says.
Hertz is building on this responsive design foundation for other features on the site and to use for other Hertz websites. HertzOnDemand.com, for example, also now has a responsive web design.