Optimizing the Customer Experience

An Excerpt from Speed and the Customer Experience

Responsive Design has seen its share of excitement and criticism since its introduction. Both speed and user experience, however, have been at the top of the criticism list. Learn more about why this is, and how Responsive Design experts tackle these issues through the study of a 1-800 CONTACTS Responsive Design implementation.  In this excerpt, we focus on the customer experience aspect of Responsive Design.  For the full whitepaper, please download it here

Optimizing the Customer Experience

While speed plays a critical role in customer experience, there are other factors at work. One factor is simply an appealing UI. Being immersive is just as important as being intuitive. Pinch, swipe and zoom gestures are features smartphone and tablet users know and love. In the early days of Responsive Web Design, it was said these were features that couldn’t be tapped into. With today’s more common blend of adaptive and Responsive Design, we know this is not the case. Developers have touch-screen specific controls at their disposal; they just need to be used appropriately. 

Considerations such as brand image, load and experience time, site flow as well as maintenance time should be weighed when considering gestures. Creating specific experiences based on device such as iPhone 5s or Galaxy Tab 3 is also possible, but is generally not recommended because of the increase in maintenance challenges.

It is possible to create an mDot site replica using Responsive Design, although successfully pursuing this goal is heavily dependent upon the design of your desktop site. This is why the term “mobile first” has garnered so much attention. Mobile-first means you design from the smallest breakpoint then work your way up. This is a much more effective approach than going from big to small, then finding you have a bunch of disorganized content in one long column with a poor UI. You would then have two options: one – redesign, two – a developer uses more JavaScript to re-prioritize the layout. The latter would produce something slower, more difficult to maintain and potentially less stable. Designs should be planned with all breakpoints in mind to simplify transitions from one to another, as the same elements are re-used across devices.

Responsive design provides optimized layouts based on screen width, not device. Layouts are established by breakpoints, or defined ranges of width. Some small e-readers and large phones overlap in size. Designers should no longer design for context, but instead create an optimal UI for screen size.

1-800 CONTACTS is a prime example of a responsive website that managed to find the best of both the speed and user experience worlds. They have a well-presented responsively designed site, 100% internal ownership across mobile and tablet, and a superior customer experience. But, in achieving all this, 1-800 CONTACTS did something controversial. Their mobile experience is now slower than it was with their mDot site. 1800contacts.com is .4 seconds, or 5.5% slower on a mobile device than the previous m.1800contacts.com, but the conversion rate is actually 10% higher. This idea goes against the reigning theory on conversion rates – 7% decrease in conversion for each additional second of load time. Instead, 1-800 CONTACTS shines light on something even more critical to conversion rates. 

Above speed and UI, is content. The number one customer satisfaction factor is delivering what a customer needs. With Responsive Design naturally being a slower option, it is critical special attention is paid to creating a customer experience that delivers what the customer needs. 

Speed + Content + UI = Customer Satisfaction Level

We are no longer in the days of a smartphone or tablet user being contextually relevant. Consider the fact that 21% of people use their mobile as their primary Internet device*. The context of mobile goes out the window when users are using their device in every situation possible. A visitor to a bank’s site may want to manage their bank account, not just pay a bill or check a balance. Maybe they want to add a payee. Just because an airline site visitor is checking their rewards balance doesn’t mean they don’t need to know what items those rewards can buy. 

Many website owners are still stuck under the false impression that a mobile site should be a pared down version of a desktop site. Consumers have evolved out of this mentality, and websites need to follow suit. Unfortunately, this means more content, and heavier load times. Here is where the knowledge of an experienced developer becomes critical, and Responsive Design requires the most elite development resources. 

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