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Why Responsive Design Must Factor In User Experience

blog-responsive-designResponsive design is often touted as a magic bullet for seamlessly translating the retail experience across desktop, tablet, and smartphones. With responsive design, companies need only build one site for every consumer device. But, unfortunately, responsive design isn’t necessarily a quick fix for retailers that want to go multichannel.

In fact, while responsive design sites load faster on desktops and tablets, they can load at a snail’s pace on smartphones. A recent study conducted by Internet Retailer found that the average home page load time on smartphones running on 3G and 4G wireless speeds was nearly 20 seconds. For companies looking to drive conversions through mobile, keeping the user waiting can be detrimental. In fact, the Aberdeen Group estimates that even a one-second delay in site response time can reduce conversions by 7 percent.

In addition, responsive design can affect SEO performance because Google penalizes Web sites in search rankings for poor performance and speed.

How To Avoid Pitfalls

As an alternative to responsive design, retailers can improve site speed and performance on their existing responsive mobile sites by:

  • Improving grid design: Redesigning the content grid is a necessary and incredibly challenging step in responsive design projects. It’s not enough to simply collapse a content grid for mobile. Retailers must continuously test and optimize their grids for small screens.For retailers that fail to plan their content grids accurately for mobile, their optimized page layout will be dysfunctional. For example, a call to action that should be in the middle of the page might end up at the bottom where it negatively impacts conversion rates, or rich media and third-party content may overpower the critical CTAs to drive conversions.
  • Delivering page content in fragments: To increase site load speed and performance, retailers can break up HTML pages into smaller fragments and deliver them in chunks to a mobile user. By delivering only the most important elements of a pagefirst, retailers can avoid bogging down the site and customize the user experience based on factors such as device, operating system, and connection speed.
  • Application sequencing: Application sequencing prioritizes the order of different elements on a page. When a visitor first enters a site, the server displays only the most important elements. This enables brands to deliver rich media information later based on time on site and user interaction, such as scrolls and hovers. By leveraging this “just-in-time content” approach that waits to load large site features and content, retailers can improve site speed and conversions on responsive design sites.
  • Dynamic serving: Dynamic serving is the server-side implementation of responsive design in the sense that it uses the same URL structure across devices and changes the experience depending on the type of device a shopper is using. This is the critical aspect of responsive design today because it changes HTML code of a site depending on a user’s device and other information. This provides a much more tailored user experience for each individual visitor.Dynamic serving should also ensure that images are resized, compressed, and sequenced accordingly for the user profile requesting a given page. This improves page load speed by customizing the content based on device. Tablet and PC users can still enjoy the high-resolution experience, while mobile users receive faster site performance that isn’t hampered by complex, slow-loading images, content, and media.
  • Mobile-first mind-set: Although retailers can use planning tools to rectify poor grid design issues, the reality is that none of these tools will work if retailers don’t change their mind-sets. Retailers must design pages for a small screen and a mobile user first, and then tailor those experiences for larger screen sizes.

When it comes to responsive design, marketers should not only be concerned with how their brands? Web sites look on a mobile device. By following these critical steps, retailers can implement slick responsive design without compromising the quality of the user experience.

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