Mobile Ecommerce: Why you need a Responsive Ecommerce Website

Posted by Edward Gotham 22 Jul 13

Responsive website


This is part of a series of blog posts focused on mobile ecommerce:

Globally we are adopting mobile as our main source of accessing online content. It's been forecasted that over the next year, mobile internet usage will actually overtake desktop. This isn't exactly news, I think we are all now aware of the importance of mobile. What I don’t think everyone is aware of is how to effectively adapt to the changing lanscape. 

People often ask me, "How do we readjust for mobile? I know I need to go mobile but do I build a mobile site, a responsive site or a mobile app?" My answer is always this - do NOT build a separate mobile site, and regardless of whether or not you currently have, or want to build, an app, you absolutely must have a responsive designed website. Apps have their place, and can be extremely beneficial for SOME businesses IF utilised in the correct way. However, separate mobile sites are things of the past. They are old technology. 

In a moment I’m going to explain why you need to go responsive, but first, just in case you didn’t know, I’m going to very quickly explain what responsive design is in a few sentences.

What is responsive design?

Responsive design is a clever way of coding web pages so that they can intelligently adjust themselves to correctly fit the content of any page to any screen size from numerous different devices. A very good example is Try adjusting the size of your browser and watch how the content automatically repositions and resizes. 

Responsive design is the optimal way to display content on mobile and this is why:

1) User experience

The adaptability of responsive web design means the user experience is improved in three main ways:

  • Consistent content across all devices. The exact same content on your desktop version is simply resized and adjusted slightly. This means you maintain the same navigational structure.

  • Easy & fluid navigation - which means no scrolling left and right, just up and down and with larger buttons.

  • More contextually focused content. For example on mobile it’s highly likely you may be looking for contact details of a particular store. In this situation, this particular use case goes up in your information priority and should be more accessible and/or highlighted. 

Check out this great example of responsive design:

The user experience improvements are applied to all screen sizes, which makes you future proof, regardless of new devices that will be released. Conversely, mobile only sites are built only for specific screen resolutions which causes huge problems. Today's world interacts via a huge amount of different devices which vary wildly in screen size. If you don't adapt it will be extremely costly. 

2) SEO 

SEO is also better with reponsive design:

  • Google announced recently that they will start penalising retailers who are not properly mobile optimised. They even state on their developer portal that their preferred method for mobile optimisation is responsive web design. Clearly the best solution to maintain optimal search rankings is to go responsive! I would suggest that one of the reasons behind this decision by Google is that responsive design is a lot cleaner, has a consistent user experience and the content is far easier to share.

  • Any responsive web page is built with the same code and uses the same urls across mobile and desktop. Whereas mobile sites have different code bases, and separate URLs. Consequently with a separate mobile site you would end up developing two site ranks independently. With a responsive site you only have one site rank to work on - far more straightforward. 

3) Data analysis 

A quick point but a very valid one: if you have a separate mobile site, you will have to have two different sites to track, which will cause a headache when you are trying to analyse your data with an aggregated view across both mobile and desktop. We love clean data here at Ometria, and this is definitely a no no.

4) Maintenance 

There is only one code base to maintain rather than two. This means that in the long-run a well built responsive website is both easier and cheaper to manage.  

A few points to keep in mind 

  • A well built responsive site is likely to cost more than building a mobile only site, largely due to the amount of testing involved to make sure the responsive design is optimised for all devices. Additionally, do not treat responsive as a quick fix. You need to spend time properly organizing how the content should be structured on different devices.

  • It's not the best option if you want to utilise some of a smartphone's or tablet's inbuilt functionality such as the camera, calendar etc. As mentioned previously there is definitely a place for apps. However, they are not necessary for a company to succeed on mobile, whereas I would argue a responsive web design is. Don't get me wrong, apps can provide incredible user experience and value that responsive web currently cannot. But they must only be built if the extra value you can create is highly beneficial to at least a good proportion of your target market, otherwise you won't make a return on your investment.  

Key takeaway 

Don’t build a mobile site. Go responsive! This is not an option, it is a must do. After going responsive, weigh up the benefits of building an app, and if the benefit does not outweigh the cost, then don’t do it.

If you're looking into or interested in building an app, keep a look out for an upcoming blog post - 'When It's Valuable To Build a Mobile App for Ecommerce.' 

If you're looking for more information about going mobile you should check out our previous blog post: 9 Reasons Why You Need a Mobile Optimised Website 


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