Debunking Common Myths Around Responsive Web Design

In the last year, mobile traffic has surpassed desktop traffic for the first time. The question is no longer will you optimize your mobile website, but how?

Many retailers believe that responsive web design is the best solution when it comes to mobile optimization. Although it has its advantages, it is not the be-all-end-all solution, and there are many misconceptions surrounding it.

Responsive web design (RWD) was coined by Ethan Marcotte in 2010. At the time, retailers were creating separate m.dot sites to improve the user experience on mobile devices. RWD was a new solution that addressed many of the issues surrounding a m.dot site. Primarily, by allowing retailers to create a single website that would adjust to the screen size of the user’s device. This meant a single URL which improved SEO, social sharing, and cut down on maintenance costs. However, is this still the best solution today? The hype surrounding RWD has started to wear off, but there are still many who believe it’s the best solution for mobile optimization. This is not always the case, here are the most common myths surrounding RWD.

Myth 1 – Responsive web design will ensure the optimal layout.

RWD only allows you to create one template across all devices. Designing your website with a mobile-first approach may optimize the mobile version of the layout, but it could negatively impact the desktop and tablet version (and vice-versa). Generally, more content means fewer sales on smartphones. The mobile layout should to be adapted so that all the important information is visible above the fold. This may require removing content that would be irrelevant to a mobile user which either isn’t possible with RWD, or is tremendously difficult.

Myth 2 – Responsive web design will ensure faster load times.

It’s true that a responsive website doesn’t get redirected (like a m.dot site), but responsive sites tend to have a slower load time because all the assets are downloaded, even those that aren’t used on mobile. The larger file sizes from the desktop site slow down the site’s performance on mobile; every second counts as 1 second of delay decreases user satisfaction by 16%.

Myth 3 – Responsive web design will improve my customer’s mobile shopping experience.

RWD is a good solution for content sites, like magazines and newspapers, because the content is simply being reformatted and there is no need to create unique user experiences across different devices. However, RWD is not the best solution for an ecommerce site as it doesn’t provide the flexibility to optimize the layout of each device to increase conversions. Consumers have different click/tap behaviours and checkout expectations when shopping on mobile devices versus desktops, and the experience on each device should reflect this. If you’re trying to satisfy both desktop users and mobile users with RWD, you may end up hindering the user experience on both platforms.

For example, mobile users won’t take the time to fill out long forms, so they are much more likely to convert if the form is simplified and you provide guest checkouts and one-click checkouts for returning customers. Unfortunately, RWD doesn’t give you the opportunity to customize the checkout process for a particular device.

What’s the Alternative?

M.dot sites use a separate URL which causes issues with SEO, social sharing, and load times, on the other hand, RWD doesn’t allow you to optimize the layout of each device to increase conversions.

What’s the alternative? An adaptive solution uses the same URL as the desktop site, but still gives you the ability to create different templates for each device. By designing each layout to address the needs and wants of a user on that particular device, you’ll improve your customer’s shopping experience and increase your overall conversions.

To evaluate the different mobile solutions available and find the best fit for your company, download the Mobile Solution Checklist.

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