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Is “mobile-friendly” good enough these days?

5 August 2021

One of my favourite e-retailers let me down the other day. I was shopping on my phone and kept running into the same obstacle over and over again.

It got me thinking about how even if a site is beautifully designed and cosmetically “device-responsive” — what we today label as “mobile-friendly” — that doesn’t always mean users will have a good experience using it on their mobile phones.

Mobilegeddon, aka. Why responsive websites are the norm today

In 2015, Google’s “Mobilegeddon” changed the way many businesses approached the web. Until then, too many websites were still primarily aimed at desktop users with little regard for optimizing the mobile experience.

But the search giant’s mandate was clear: without mobile-friendliness, you’d stand to lose your SERP (search engine results pages) ranking. And it was this imminent threat to a competitive edge many businesses strive for that accelerated the adoption of responsive web practices.

Can we make do with “over the line”?

Going back to my favourite store, my complaint is about how long it took to navigate from one product to another. While the site had breadcrumbs on their product category pages, this key navigation tool was notably absent from the individual product pages.

So I ended up traipsing through their navigation for the sections and products I wanted, often forgetting where in the site hierarchy my desired content lived.

Now, you can always argue that customers should “just use the back button”, but my question is… why should they? When more and more e-retailers are focusing on the quality of the experience they offer, why should your customers settle for a site and brand that doesn’t show they care?

In a post-Mobilegeddon world, it’s so very easy to launch a responsive website. Even junior web developers enter the industry having learned this as part of their training. And when you can’t get hold of someone with contemporary skills, there are thousands of pre-built templates that can do a reasonable job for you — less customisable, sure, and maybe not delivering the exact outcome you envision for your business, but it’s enough to get most brands over the line.

But the line has shifted. “Mobile-friendly” is now the bare minimum in a market where mobile makes up over half of site traffic. We need to do better.

So what would it take to ensure your mobile-friendly website provides a great user experience?

3 ways to go above and beyond

Offer a better experience beyond the critical path.

Customers might not take the most direct route to their destination, but making their journey easier could increase the chance they’ll stick with you to the end. In my case, breadcrumbs on product pages might not seem like the most direct path to conversion, but they would have helped me find what I was looking for with greater ease (and less risk of abandonment), and sped up my arrival at the checkout process.

Consider what it really means to use a small screen.

A mobile UI may look nice on paper (or in a static design), but that’s not what your customers will be interacting with. Consider the dynamic environment of the mCommerce experience, interrupted by newsletter popups, slowed down by marketing pixels, and obscured by cross-promotions and other monetisation tactics , and do right by your customers.

Check your privilege (aka. access to fast internet and high-end hardware).

Remember the segment of your customer base still running on slower speeds and budget devices, or those who may be dealing with tighter mobile data caps and nearby signal interference. A well-designed responsive eCommerce website should aim to work smoothly for these users too. This demographic will thank you for your optimised images, snappy code, shorter workflows, concise content, and absence of unnecessary functionality.

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