The commercial imperative for responsive website design and user experience
The case for responsive, platform neutral, well-designed user experience couldn’t be clearer. Barely a week goes by without a new smartphone, tablet or phablet (tablet sized phone) hitting the shops. Tablet ownership is up, PC sales are down. Curved screens and wearable technology could change the way we use and interact with our devices altogether.
So why are there still so many non-responsive sites?
Perhaps the commercial reasons for responsive aren’t clear. Poor user experience (UX) doesn’t just raise bounce rates and reduce engagement; it can mean lost sales and long-term damage to a brand. Conversely, great user experience can reap some serious rewards.
Consumers have changed, but have you?
Two years ago, responsive design was still in its infancy. When we launched a fully responsive site with a shortened purchase route for First Great Western (FGW) in December 2011, it was truly pioneering stuff. The site was designed with a likely increase in mobile traffic and desire to deliver the purchase in mind. At launch, FGW saw an immediate 87 per cent increase in traffic going straight to the booking engine. Since then, mobile traffic to the site has doubled. But rather than losing out to this significant change in browsing behaviour, FGW has seen a modest increase in visits, an impressive increase in engagement with page views and pages per visit both up two-and-a-half fold and 35 per cent of traffic heading directly to purchase.
Econsultancy recently cited 14 brands that have raised conversion rate through responsive design. Another article lists a different five with eye-popping results, such as a 42 per cent increase in revenue across all devices. Some of the figures may be reported against a backdrop of not having responded earlier to consumer behaviour, but all the more reason to think responsive and UX now. Yet the Internet Advertising Bureau’s (IAB) suggests that only 11 per cent of brands of the UK’s top 100 advertisers have a responsive site.
Enabling emails to render correctly on different devices is important too. There is some debate across email broadcast regarding open rates on mobile devices, with Litmus claiming 47 per cent and Pure360 at 28 per cent but with a tiny click through rate, versus computers. If Litmus’ experience is anything to go by, this is a significant lost opportunity.
So you’re sold on why. It’s as easy as a few plug-ins, right?
Not really. Perhaps if your budget is small, but scrimping on what could be your main shop window makes little sense. The technical considerations for achieving a successful responsive implementation can’t be underestimated. And responsive alone isn’t enough. Good UX architects have a special blend of logical, technical and cognition skills that help them to see things as users do.
Developing empathy with users means putting yourself in their shoes over and over again. You can imagine just how different users have different habits or use different devices; in UX they take this to another level, considering every tiny detail. Beyond user empathy, UX specialists live and breathe the technologies they work with; they understand what can and can’t be done, tricks and workarounds, the pleasure and the pain to help them deliver elegant and intuitive experiences.
It almost goes without saying that beautiful, engaging design is essential. This is where art meets science and become greater than the sum of the parts. Indeed, the key to success is collaboration across a range of technical, insight, planning and design skills.
The time to think responsive is now
The Christmas period will be interesting, with John Lewis already expecting tablet shopping to overtake desktops. But as we’ve seen, retail is by no means the only sector responsive is relevant to.
Delivering a seamless user experience across devices is a good reason to go responsive. But when backed by the numbers, it’s impossible to ignore the golden combination of expert responsive and user experience design.
Five rules for good responsive and user experience Design:
- People are fickle, don’t let them get away
- Remember that technology is moving faster than you are
- Do your research, prove the case and get senior backing
- Collaborate. Truly responsive sites are not built using a single discipline or plug-in
- Leave no stone unturned
Managing Director, Jaywing
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