Mobile phone usage has increased significantly over the last few years. According to the Pew Research Center, more than 75% Americans now own smartphones, which is a considerable jump from 35% in 2011. However, negative user experiences when browsing e-commerce websites often leaves online shoppers wanting for more.
Statistics released by Google suggest that when people have negative experiences on mobile devices, their likelihood of making a purchase reduces by more than 60%. In addition, close to 75% people feel that they might return to mobile-friendly websites, and over 65% people are more likely to make purchases through mobile-friendly websites.
If you run an e-commerce website, it might be worth your while to check how many visitors you receive through mobile devices. Google Analytics gives you an easy way to look at this data, even letting you view just which devices people use to visit your website. The results may well surprise you, and you can then think about going the responsive web design way. This will make your website adaptable to all screen sizes, from smartphones to smart televisions.
What is Responsive Web Design?
Before getting to why you need a responsive website, it makes sense to understand what differentiates it from a conventional non-responsive website.
If you are to view a non-responsive website using a desktop computer, the website would operate as it should. However, if you view it on a smartphone or a tablet, there is a very good chance that it won’t appear normally. Some elements might look distorted or get hidden from plain view, and you might also have to scroll sideward. The problem becomes all the more complicated given the fact mobile devices tend to offer both, portrait and landscape views.
When a website relies on responsive web design, the device it is being viewed on automatically adjusts how it is displayed. This makes the content easy to view and simplifies navigation within the website. For instance, the content might appear as a single column on a smartphone, but work differently with a tablet. Images would resize automatically instead of appearing to be distorted.
The importance of responsive web design lies in the fact that it ensures automatic adjustments of all the components within a website across all kinds of devices and screen sizes.
How Does Responsive Web Design Work?
Responsive web design works in responding to user environment and behavior. It is typically linked to orientation, screen size, and operating platform. Responsive web design for e-commerce websites ensures that layouts, images, and grids work in sync with any given platform, making the website easy to view and browse. In case the elements do not come together seamlessly, images may appear randomly scattered, too small, or too large, and you may have textual content running of the screen.
Responsive web design relies on the use of grids that are fluid. Designers make sure that they use proportion instead of pixels to size down elements. If your website has multiple columns, the designer would not specify the exact width of each column, but how they should appear in relation to each other. For example, the first column might take 50% of the page width, and the other two could be set at 25% each. Media such as images and videos and resized accordingly as well, so they stay in proportion to other elements.
The entire process of creating a responsive website includes using a blend of flexible layouts, grids, and imagery, along with using CSS media queries in the right manner. When a user switches from a desktop to a smartphone, the website needs to adjust automatically for scripting abilities, resolution, and image size.
The developer might also need to take into account individual settings on devices. For instance, if an iPhone user relies on a virtual private network (VPN), the service provider might end up blocking your website. In such a scenario, the website should be able to detect a user’s preferences automatically. This takes away the need to come with different websites for different kinds of devices and different regions.
Why is Responsive Web Design Important for E-Commerce
If you are wondering why responsive web design is important for e-commerce websites, understand that the process comes with multiple benefits.
Improves User Experience
A typical non-responsive e-commerce website designed for desktops and laptops tends to appear rather small on devices such as smartphones and tablets. This often leaves visitors scrolling endlessly, trying to magnify content, or having to deal with poor navigation. Such an e-commerce website is bound to leave most users irritated or frustrated.
Responsive web design gives you an easy means to address this problem. It ensures that visitors to your website do not have to browse through clutter, giving them easy access to the information they need. This good user experience ensures that people visiting your website do not leave in a hurry.
Google Likes It
Google is of the opinion that responsive web design is the ideal way to go, with a website depending on CSS3 media queries to change the way it appears on mobile devices. In this case, while there is a single URL, one HTML code, and the same content, CSS media queries specify which CSS rules need to apply to the browser in question.
Google prefers responsive web design because it helps its algorithms to assign indexing properties to any page accurately, instead of requiring signaling the existence of corresponding pages for other platforms.
A distinct benefit comes in the form of saved resources when Googlebot crawls your website. With responsive web design, there is no need for multiple Googlebot user-agents to work in retrieving different versions of content. Instead, a single Googlebot user-agent needs to crawl your website only once. There is a strong likelihood that the improved efficiency in crawling may help Google index greater volumes of your website’s content, while also keeping it fresh.
According to Google, the benefits of responsive web design include having just one URL per page. While this simplifies how users interact with any given page, it also enables Google’s “algorithms to assign the indexing properties to your content.” Efficiency also increases because Googlebot does not have to crawl multiple versions of the same page.
If Google picks any of the pages you create separately for a mobile platform, it may end up flagging them as copy-pasted versions of the original pages. In addition, with the possibility of duplicate content eliminated through the use of responsive website design for e-commerce websites, a boost in a site’s ranking is not uncommon.
Makes Your Website Faster
A report released by Ericsson showed that when users experience slow loading websites, they tend to blame the provider of the content and not the mobile service provider. While a website that takes time to load might usually frustrate a user, it can also have an adverse effect on brand perception and conversion. This becomes particularly important with people who browse e-commerce websites on mobile devices while relying on slower than usual internet connections.
Responsive web design for e-commerce websites works in reducing server response time, it minimizes HTTP requests, it reduces the plugins that your website requires, and it also optimizes imagery automatically. In such a scenario, a web designer would use different techniques to ensure quick loading of an e-commerce website across different kinds of mobile devices.
Makes Effective Use of Content
The need to change the content of e-commerce websites fairly regularly is not uncommon. If you have different versions of your website for different platforms, you will have to upload the same content more than once. With a website that relies on responsive web design, you need to upload the new content only once. It will then work equally well on desktops, laptops, smartphones, and tablets alike.
Good for Social Media
Just about every prominent e-commerce website out there has ga ood social media presence. This makes it important that you remain aware of the latest trends. While adding to the number of your Instagram followers, sponsoring posts of Facebook, and looking for promoted tweets on Twitter might work well, bear in mind that your ultimate goal is to get leads to visit your website.
If you operate different websites for desktops and mobile devices, with both having separate domains, sharing links to your website can turn out to be problematic. This is because users do not wish to be burdened with having to differentiate between multiple links intended for different devices.
Another problem that may arise is when a user clicks on the link to a mobile website using a desktop or the other way around. In such a scenario, while the website will open, it will not look at it should on the given device. This, without a doubt, will leave any user unsatisfied.
An important reason surrounding why you need a responsive website is that you will be able to share a single link on social media that visitors to your website may use through just about any kind of device.
Easier and More Cost-Effective to Maintain
While you might have to spend a little more to get a new responsive website as opposed to getting one that is non-responsive, the former turns out to be simpler and more cost effective to maintain in the long run. Consider this – if you wish to add new content to the non-responsive website you have for different platforms, you will have to repeat the same process at least twice. With a responsive website, the updates take place only once. Besides, responsive web design does away with additional costs that come in the form of maintaining multiple domains and websites for different devices.
One of the most important benefits of responsive web design is that makes your website accessible across just about any device. This, in turn, helps you reach out to a wider audience. What also works in favor of responsive web design is that the simple and clear content hierarchy gives your customers the ability to navigate without any problem and view your offerings even on small screens. Increased customer satisfaction follows.
Since not many e-commerce websites have gone the responsive web design way yet, getting one for your business gives it a competitive edge. After all, why would a customer go through the pains of navigating through a non-responsive website on a mobile device when a competitor provides the same offering in a simpler and more easily accessible way?
The enhanced user-experience that comes about because of responsive web design makes looking for and buying products on mobile devices rather easy. It is not without reason that most e-commerce websites experience increased sales when they move from a non-responsive to a responsive website.
Making the Switch
Making the switch from a non-responsive e-commerce website to one that is responsive is not as complicated or time-consuming as you might imagine. If you are planning to make that all important change, bear in mind that while the initial costs might seem high, your new website will end up paying for itself in the long run through easy and cost-effective maintenance.
Good web designers and developers who have kept up with the times are completely adept at creating and working with responsive e-commerce websites. In addition, several responsive e-commerce websites are created taking into account the specific requirements of businesses, while making use of distinct functionalities. For example, most popular e-commerce platforms give their users the ability to “search” for offerings through their websites, which simplifies how people look for products or services.
Web designers know that Google favors responsive web designs. The ones who are good at their trade take time to understand just what the process entails, keeping abreast of Google’s changing preferences at all times.
If you plan to get a new e-commerce website or plan to upgrade from your existing one, choosing to go the responsive web design way is in your best interest. After all, reaching out to a wider demographic and ensuring that your target audience is happy with your website is bound to have a positive effect on your business.