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Best Practices For Building a Mobile Responsive Website

a responsive website displayed on a tablet, mobile phone, and laptop

It’s no exaggeration to say mobile devices have become practically an extension of our bodies; they account for just over half of web traffic worldwide today. As further evidence, every third mobile user searches for answers to questions on their device, and 72% are likely to buy from or recommend an eCommerce site that’s mobile-friendly.

Given that mobile makes up 60% of all eCommerce sales and is predicted to continue to grow, eCommerce professionals can’t afford to neglect the mobile shopping experience for prospective customers.

To appeal to this market segment, you have to create a mobile responsive website that meets the unique requirements of these devices. Read on to learn best practices and understand the implications of a mobile-first design on your business’s success.

What is mobile-first design?

Mobile-first is a design philosophy that prioritizes mobile screens at the beginning of the website-building process. Following this approach guarantees a seamless experience on any device for your site visitors, including functionality, load times, and even the look and feel of the website.

What does “mobile responsive” website mean?

A mobile responsive website refers to whether or not a website is optimized to be both functional and aesthetically pleasing on devices of different sizes. In essence, mobile responsive means the experience of visiting a particular website on an iMac is similar to — if not the exact same as — that of a Samsung Galaxy.

While both mobile-first design and mobile responsiveness have the same goal of a seamless and positive site visit for users, they possess a few key differences. As mentioned, the former is a design philosophy (like a blueprint) while the latter is a technical approach (that is, the physical construction process).

In the past, websites were created under the assumption they’d be viewed via desktop, which meant a wide screen for displaying content. But with the advent of smart devices, new viewing requirements forced companies to adapt to mobile responsive websites.

Mobile responsive website design best practices

The growth of both mobile visitors and purchases makes it imperative for your online store to accommodate these devices, even if you don’t currently see high mobile traffic.

With 88% of online consumers less likely to return to a site after a bad experience, you can’t afford to neglect this accessibility; if shoppers have a difficult experience on your site when browsing via mobile, they may not visit on their desktop either. Below are some best practices for you to consider as you optimize your eCommerce site with a mobile responsive website design.

Deliver an omnichannel experience

Mobile continues to rise as a major player in the omnichannel experience. So, one of your biggest priorities when building an eCommerce site is to ensure your customers have a seamless experience whether they visit on desktop or mobile. That encompasses not only the general look and feel of your website but also cart syncing, especially when users are signed in to their account.

Perhaps a customer is browsing items and adding them to their cart via mobile while taking the train home from work. They intend to complete the checkout process when they arrive at home, on their desktop computer or laptop. If they’re unable to see their cart items on their desktop (or vice versa), the experience quickly becomes frustrating.

You can rely on apps and other integrations to ensure your cart persists across devices and over time to support device-hopping shoppers’ needs when creating your mobile responsive website.

Consider thumb navigation

The best mobile experiences are designed with thumbs in mind. Consider your own device habits; perhaps you opt for one-handed scrolling with your thumb or two-handed, double-thumb typing.

About half of mobile users interact with their phones using one hand, particularly when they’re on the go and moving around, while only 15% employ both hands.

Additionally, roughly 10% of the world is left-handed. Based on that information, your mobile responsive website’s design and navigation should take into account user accessibility according to that standard, single handhold with the thumb for navigation and clicks.

Position CTAs carefully

Calls to action (CTAs) require careful and strategic positioning on a traditional desktop, but their placement is even more critical for the mobile experience (again, think about thumb navigation relative to screen size).

An effective mobile responsive website design also needs to balance how many CTAs it displays so viewers aren’t overwhelmed.

CTA buttons are some of the most important elements on your site, so they should be visible within one to two seconds to allow customers to grasp the actions they can take quickly. Follow these tips for optimal CTA placement:

  • Go light on the copy
  • Less is more (too many options can cause indecision)
  • Capitalize on white space
  • Stick it to the page
  • When in doubt, size up
  • Remember the thumb zone

Avoid lengthy content

When it comes to content, short and snappy is best for mobile. Aim to keep paragraphs within five lines of length and avoid long text blocks that can be difficult to read on small screens.

Always use clear, legible typography and keep text size in mind as well; too big is overwhelming, but too small is a cross-eyed headache waiting to happen.

The rule of thumb is 16px, but you can scale up significantly for headers, and some typefaces even require a larger font size. Additionally, be sure to:

  • Employ bullet points
  • Use subheaders
  • Ensure you have high-contrast text against the background (e.g., dark text on light background)
  • Break up text with images for a more visual experience

Simplify your navigation for a mobile responsive website

No one wants to wade through multiple pages to find what they need, so straightforward navigation is a plus on any website. This is especially true for mobile sites though, because they’re already trickier to traverse than desktop with their smaller screens and less obvious navigation.

Start by researching menus that work for mobile. Full-screen side menus with a line height of about 10 mm per button is ideal. Most eCommerce websites can also improve usability by adding navigation cards to the home page in addition to a separate menu (Just Eat Takeaway provides a great example of this).

Many mobile websites are only 720 pixels wide in portrait mode, so it’s imperative to keep all labels and headers as short as possible to ensure they fit across the screen neatly while still being legible.

Because users don’t want to waste time, list the most important pages first in your navigation. Where possible, provide anchor links throughout your site to help visitors jump to the page they need. The search function should thus be a critical part of your navigation (look to Amazon for a great example of search as an effective navigational function).

Make your navigation intuitive for users. Employ simple language and symbols to demonstrate whether a menu item drops down or has additional options. For a quick and easy return to the home page, embed a clickable function in your logo or the brand name in the menu.

Offer guest checkout

Generally, allowing guest checkout is a good eCommerce practice. It removes barriers for prospective customers to make a purchase by eliminating the need to create an account. Easier is better when shopping, especially for mobile.

Further, no matter how dexterous they are, typing for mobile users is restricted since they lack the luxury of a full keyboard. As such, a lengthy account sign-up process could spell disaster when shoppers try to check out.

Collect the minimum amount of information required to complete a purchase and invite your buyers to create an account in your purchase confirmation email instead.

Upsell and cross-sell

Upselling and cross-selling are two basic strategies to sell more and increase your revenue. By finding similar or complementary products for them, these tactics effectively entice shoppers to add extra items to their carts.

Format images for mobile

Nearly half (47%) of users expect a maximum loading time of two seconds for websites, and the usual culprit for a page slowdown is large file sizes.

For eCommerce stores, beautiful, high-resolution images are non-negotiable, but it’s also important to optimize them for mobile. So, make sure your photos not only load quickly (i.e., appropriate file sizes) but also render properly on any screen so your customers can see your product clearly.

To optimize your images for mobile, be sure to resize and compress images and choose the correct file format.

Optimize video for mobile

Mobile users have unique video behaviors as well, with 92% viewing them on mobile devices with the sound off, and 50% of consumers said captions are important for that very reason.

When creating videos for your eCommerce site then, make sure visitors can enjoy them without audio.

Also, like your photos, choose the correct size, and be sure your videos don’t autoplay. Sudden music or a video that takes up the full mobile screen is often an unwelcome intrusion for mobile shoppers.

Kill the pop-ups

Bombarding website visitors with pop-ups, opt-ins, and “special offers” interrupts the browsing experience and frequently causes them to leave. In response, Google has cracked down on websites with invasive pop-ups and ads. If these features degrade the user experience, the search engine is less likely to show your eCommerce website in the search results.

While displaying your latest deals helps grow your email list and consumer base, on mobile, less is more. Skip the pop-ups on your mobile site and allow your customers to navigate quietly.

If you must add special notifications, consider featuring banners and header bars at the top of the page. For example, multiple plugins allow you to display unobtrusive banners that promote sales and discounts at the top or bottom of your page. You can also encourage visitors to sign up for a newsletter or run similar CTAs as part of the mobile responsive website design rather than as a pop-up.

Ensure your contact info is readily available

Your customers shouldn’t have to hunt for your contact information. It’s possible they’re visiting your mobile responsive website for it specifically so they can locate your brick-and-mortar store quickly or reach out with questions.

Easily accessible contact information also helps your website rank higher in search results, as prospective customers are more likely to find you through mobile search engine queries.

Tip: Make “Contact Us” a sticky CTA at the top or bottom of the page so no matter how far down customers scroll, they’ll be able to pinpoint your details with ease.

Use geolocation

Location-based technology allows you to segment consumers and offer them relevant, personalized content. When combined with other information like indicated preferences, click data, or past purchase behavior, you can deliver content tailored to customers, maximizing the value you offer them.

You can’t always use these tactics though. In fact, if you sell in Europe, you may have to remove this data collection from your website. You’ll also need a clear pop-up asking the visitor’s permission to use their location data, or you could face fines from the Federal Trade Commission.

So, implement this request where relevant., for instance, recommends asking for permission to view device location on any ads, features, or recommendations that use it (e.g., “See what’s in stock locally by allowing to view your device location”).

Valid applications of geographical info include:

  • Local shipping costs
  • Time to ship
  • Store locations and inventory
  • Nearby pickup points

In return for collecting a user’s location, strive to add value for them whenever possible, rather than restricting it to improving your marketing data and awareness.

Test often

Once you’ve built your mobile responsive website, test it on a variety of devices and screens to gauge its functionality. You should also reassess after any changes or updates to ensure everything renders properly and visitors enjoy the best possible experience when they land on your page.

Wrapping up — Embrace a mobile responsive website for a seamless shopping experience

Mobile is increasingly becoming consumers’ chosen portal for eCommerce shopping. With so many potential buyers researching, browsing listings, and comparing products on their phones, merchants need to invest in a mobile responsive website to enhance their customer experience and secure more sales.

Take our recommendations as a jumping-off point, then experiment and iterate to achieve smooth accessibility no matter what device shoppers use.

Published: Oct 4, 2022
Updated: May 17, 2024