Best practices for building a mobile responsive website

Our mobile devices are practically an extension of our bodies. According to Statista, mobile accounts for about half of web traffic worldwide today. Every third mobile user searches for answers to questions on their device, and more than two-thirds are likely to buy from or recommend an eCommerce site that’s mobile-friendly. With this in mind, the need to build a mobile optimized website isn’t just important — it’s absolutely necessary.

For eCommerce professionals, considering the mobile shopping experience for prospective customers has never been more critical. Techjury predicted almost 73% of all eCommerce would be powered by mobile commerce by the end of 2021, and 2022 could prove to be even bigger.

To appeal to mobile users, you have to create a mobile responsive site that meets the unique requirements of these devices. Read on to learn the best practices for mobile responsiveness and to understand the implications of a mobile-first design on your business.

What is mobile-first design?

Chances are, you’ve heard the term “mobile-first” before. Mobile-first design is a design philosophy that prioritizes the user experience by focusing on mobile screens at the beginning of the design process. When you design a website for mobile, you can assure your users a seamless experience on any device.

By designing your website with a mobile-first approach, you ensure an optimized web visit that considers functionality, load times, and even the look and feel of the website for all visitors .

What does mobile responsive mean?

Mobile responsiveness 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 if not the exact same as it is on a Samsung Galaxy.

You might be wondering what the difference between mobile-first design and mobile responsiveness is. While both have the same goal of a seamless and positive mobile experience for users, there are some key differences.

Mobile-first design is, as mentioned, a design philosophy. Mobile responsiveness, on the other hand, is a technical approach. Think of the former as the blueprint and the latter as the physical construction.

In the past, websites were created to be viewed via desktop. This meant a wide and expansive screen for viewing content. But with the advent of smart devices, new viewing requirements forced companies to adapt.

Why eCommerce sites must be mobile responsive

With the growth in both mobile visitors and purchasing, it’s imperative your online store is set up for mobile success, even if you don’t see high mobile traffic currently. Consider this: 88% of online consumers are less likely to return to a site after a bad experience. If prospective customers have a difficult experience on your site when browsing via mobile, they may be less likely to visit on their desktop too.

What are mobile web design best practices?

As more and more consumers rely on their mobile devices for their online activities, it’s crucial for merchants to commit their time and energy to building excellent mobile experiences.

We’ve compiled some of the best practices below for you to consider as you optimize your eCommerce site for mobile customers.

Deliver an omni-channel experience

Mobile continues to rise as a major player in the omni-channel experience. One of your biggest priorities when building your eCommerce site is to ensure your customers have a seamless experience whether they visit on desktop or mobile. This involves the general look and feel of your website, of course, but it should also include 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.

Consider the navigation with your thumbs

The best mobile experiences are designed with thumbs in mind. Consider your own mobile 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, with 15% using both hands more often than not. Also, roughly 10% of the world is left-handed. With this in mind,  your mobile responsive website’s design and navigation should take into account user accessibility using that standard single handhold with the thumb for navigation and clicks.

Position CTAs carefully

Calls to action (CTAs) should always be carefully and strategically positioned, but more so when designing a mobile experience for your users. Considering once again thumb-driven actions and navigation, the position of CTAs on a mobile site must be optimized for mobile viewing.

An effective mobile website design needs to have an obvious set of CTAs. However, too many on a small screen can overwhelm users. Like so many things, achieving balance here is key.

Your CTA buttons are some of the most important elements on your site. You want CTAs to be visible within one to two seconds to allow customers to quickly understand the actions they can take. Follow these tips to position your CTAs correctly:

  • Go light on the copy
  • Fewer is more (don’t give too many options)
  • Use 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 too — anything too big is overwhelming, but anything too small is a cross-eyed headache waiting to happen.

Remember to:

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

Simplify your navigation

A simple navigation is always a perk on any website. Who has time to wade through multiple pages to find what they need? This is especially true for mobile websites, which are already trickier to traverse with smaller screens and often hidden navigations.

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

Because your users don’t have a lot of time (and don’t want to waste it trying to navigate your pages), list the most important pages first in your navigation.

Whenever possible, provide anchor links throughout your site to help users jump to the page they need to access.

Make the search function a critical part of your navigation. Why? Because mobile users consider it to be. For a great example of search as an effective navigational function, look to Amazon.

Make your navigation intuitive for users. Use simple language and symbols to demonstrate whether a menu item drops down or has additional options.

Offer guest checkouts

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

No matter how dexterous they are, mobile users are restricted in typing; they simply don’t have the luxury of a full keyboard. As such, a lengthy account sign-up process could spell disaster when customers try to check out. Collect the minimum amount of information required to complete the purchase and invite your customers 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. When it comes to your mobile site, these strategies can have a huge impact on your users’ behavior; by finding similar or complementary products to purchase so they don’t have to, they’re more likely to add extra items to their carts.

Optimize images for mobile

47% of users expect a maximum loading time of two seconds for websites, and the usual culprit for slow load times just so happens to be large file sizes. For eCommerce stores, beautiful, high-resolution images are a requirement, but it’s also important to optimize them for mobile. Make sure your images not only load quickly (i.e., appropriate file sizes), but also render properly on any screen size so your customers can see your product properly.

To optimize your images for mobile, be sure to:

  • Resize images
  • Compress images
  • Choose the correct file format

Optimize video for mobile

Did you know? A survey of U.S. consumers found that 92% view videos on mobile with the sound off, and 50% of consumers said captions are important for that very reason. When creating video for your eCommerce site, make sure it can be consumed and enjoyed without audio.

It’s also important to make sure the size is correct and that 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 flash and pop-ups

Have you ever visited a website and immediately been bombarded with pop-ups, opt-ins, and “special offers”? They interrupt the browsing experience and cause visitors to leave.

Because of this, Google has cracked down on websites with invasive pop-ups and ads. If these features create a bad experience for users, Google is less likely to show your eCommerce website in the search results.

While it’s great to grow your email list and present customers with your latest deals, on mobile, less is more.

In addition to Google’s crackdowns, these annoying pop-ups can send your traffic packing. Skip the flash and pop-ups on your mobile site and allow your customers to navigate “quietly.”

Link your logo back to your home page for ease of navigation

When users need to return to your home page, getting there should require almost no thought. Clicking your logo is one of the most intuitive and easy ways to allow your customers to get back to the main page quickly.

Ensure contact info is easy to access

Your customers should never have to hunt for your contact information. In fact, it’s possible they’re visiting your mobile website specifically for this information so they can find your brick-and-mortar location or reach out with questions.

Easily accessible contact information also helps your website score better in search results, making it more likely prospective customers will 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 customers scroll, they’ll be able to find your details easily.

Use geolocation

Location-based technology allows you to segment consumers and offer them personalized, relevant content. When combined with other data like explicit preferences, click data, or past-purchase behavior, you can give customers mega value by delivering content tailored to them.

Test and test often

Once you’ve built your website, test it out on a variety of devices and screens. But don’t stop there. Continue to test your site after any changes or updates to ensure everything renders properly and your users get the best possible experience when they land on your page.

Wrapping up — Ensure mobile responsiveness for a seamless shopping experience

Mobile is increasingly becoming consumers’ chosen portal for eCommerce shopping. With so many potential customers doing research, browsing listings, and comparing products from their phones, every merchant must invest in a fully responsive mobile website to enhance their buyer experience.