As 2011 was the year of the mobile device, 2012 was very much the year of the tablet. That said however, Google Analytics only added ‘tablet’ as a dimension in November of the same year. Mobile and tablet devices are more sociable and are often accessed outside the office environment. This point makes them absolutely crucial for any business operating within the B2C and retail markets. A few stats to back up this point. Ignoring Christmas of last year in a survey of 550 websites mostly based within the UK was carried out by eConsultancy. These are the finding from November 2011 to mid-December 2012: Tablet ratio increased from 2% to 13%, mobile ratio increased from 11% to 18% whilst desktop decreased from 87% to 69%. It’s becoming clear that many people are now using tablets as an extension of their desktop device; fully prepared to research, buy and read on them all (even in bed). For retailers in particular, conversions from tablets was 20% better than desktop. But before you throw out the desktop computer, desktop still accounted for three-quarters of all website visits. Yes, mobile and tablet traffic is increasing as well as accounting for a good rate of conversions especially with tablets but desktop still has it’s place. However, it’s place will become increasingly threatened as more powerful and better tablets and smartphones are released. The important point from all the above is the mobile and tablet traffic is increasing, rapidly. So for any business looking to increase their conversion rate from these devices, whether using mobile or tablet specific sites, utilising responsive design or developing native applications, it has become crucial that the mobile and tablet user experience is as good as desktop. A no mean feat by any means…

There is four distinct solutions available to designers and developers to deliver the required optimal user experience across the entire spectrum of devices now available. Also, it’s worth bearing in mind that more devices will become available in the future possibly with different sized screens or functionality so future proofing a site is also a good goal to achieve. The options available are to develop a web application, second develop a native application specific to the operating system it is built on, third to develop a hybrid application and the fourth is to develop an adaptive or responsive website and emails. Many businesses will already have an existing website that functions pretty well across all desktop browsers and operating systems but in most cases will not deliver a good enough user experience on mobile. The user may in fact just get frustrated attempting to browse the site on the device and bounce off the page possibly to sites such as Amazon. As visitors to any non-optimised website using a mobile device may have to zoom in and out of various areas of the page to read the content. Having a website that delivers it’s content optimised for the vast majority of mobile and tablet devices as well as desktop will undoubtedly deliver a good user experience across all devices. Building a responsive website has it’s advantages, mainly that the content will already exist and development costs will be relatively lower than developing standalone applications.

So why do we need to invest in developing a responsive solution anyway?

Recent case studies (such as this one) regarding responsive websites especially those that operate in the retail sector have emerged and they reveal some surprising results. In short, all the key metrics were up. A survey was run on O’Neill Clothing over the course of 6 weeks, split in two 3 week halves. The first 3 weeks measured the sales from the site without any mobile optimisation then the next 3 weeks from the site with typical Responsive Design patterns built-in. Comparing the figures revealed a conversion rate increase of 65.71%, transactions increased by 112.5% and revenue generated up by 101.25%. These figures were generated from the iPhone and iPad alone. For Android devices, the conversion rate was up by 407.32%, transaction up 333.33% and revenue up by 591.42%. These figures really speak for themselves and the benefits of developing responsive solutions are immediately obvious.

The main point of developing responsive solutions (including responsive emails) is to create a functional and optimal user experience for a growing number of web-enabled devices. Going forwards, these devices will only proliferate, get better and more powerful. The humble desktop computer looks like it is on the wane. Successfully developing such a solution is challenging to say the least but the ROI will pay for itself in a very short period of time as the O’Neill survey would appear to indicate.

Sources:

http://econsultancy.com/uk/blog/62237-was-2012-the-year-of-the-tablet
http://econsultancy.com/uk/blog/62260-five-brands-that-reaped-rewards-after-adopting-responsive-design
http://electricpulp.com/notes/more-on-apples-mobile-optimization-in-ecommerce/
http://bradfrostweb.com/blog/web/responsive-web-design-missing-the-point/