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Responsive design is a hot topic in web design at the moment, as it allows site owners to tailor content to any sized screen from a single set of code - which is obviously very useful as the mobile web continues to grow in popularity.
Yet it’s still quite difficult to find examples of retailers that have embraced the technology.
This is particularly true among the top retailers that tend cling to their existing mobile sites and apps rather than going responsive.
Though responsive design is an all-encompassing way of building your site rather than a mobile strategy per se, for the purposes of this post I thought it would be interesting to look at which of the top 20 UK retailers use responsive design compared to those who have a separate mobile site.
Here’s what I found out...
Amazon ranks alongside eBay as one of the brands that is ahead of the competition in terms of mobile commerce, and I’ve previously highlighted 12 reasons behind its huge success.
But though Amazon does have a mobile site (and a great app) it hasn’t adopted responsive design, potentially because of the huge amount of work that would be involved if it replatformed all of its products and services.
(Update: Amazon's site is in fact responsive - see comments for further details).
Though Argos has a mobile optimised site it hasn’t used responsive design. Furthermore, its mobile site isn’t transactional – instead customers can use reserve and collect or make a purchase through the desktop site.
Bizarrely, the company that revolutionised the smartphone still doesn’t have a mobile site.
Tesco does have a mobile site, but it is hosted on a separate m. domain.
It’s a very user-friendly though and Tesco also has a great app, so I would be surprised if it moved to responsive design in the near future.
Next definitely used to have a mobile site, as I analysed it as part of a blog post looking at mobile checkouts last year. However this morning I was routed to its desktop site, which definitely wasn’t responsive.
You might assume that a pure play online retailer would have a mobile strategy, but it doesn’t.
As with Tesco, M&S uses a separate m. domain for its mobile site. The navigation appears to have been altered slightly since I last used it, which has actually made it more difficult to use.
In general there are a few too many options on M&S’s mobile site, which could potentially do with being simplified.
John Lewis also has a decent m. mobile site and a useful app, so I doubt it will make a major platform changes any time soon.
It has a mobile site, but under an m. domain rather than using responsive design.
Another retailer going down the m. domain route.
Thomson doesn’t have a mobile site.
Expedia has a mobile site but it hasn’t used responsive design.
EasyJet launched its first mobile optimised site in July last year, but went for a separate m. domain rather than responsive design.
Therefore it’s highly unlikely to go responsive anytime soon.
At last, a retailer that uses responsive design. Prior to launching its new site in September last year Currys didn’t have a mobile offering, so its taken a brave step by becoming one of the first major retailers to go responsive.
The scaled down mobile version looks great, and displays large icons and calls-to-action that make it easy to navigate.
One thing I’m not so keen on is way the homepage renders on a mobile screen – the user is forced to scroll past sales promotions, advertised products and recommended items before you get to the full list of product categories.
This may just be personal preference though, and Currys has presumably done user testing before deciding on the layout of the page.
Tesco Direct uses the same m. domain as the main site, but personally I don’t think the layout is as user-friendly as the grocery section.
Another travel brand with no mobile site.
LoveFilm has an app, but no mobile website.
Topshop has an excellent mobile site – in fact I rated it as the best among the top 20 online retailers in a user test last May.
However it is hosted on an m. domain and doesn’t use responsive design.
B&Q has a very good mobile site, but it’s an m. domain.
Another brand with an excellent, user-friendly mobile site that uses a separate m. domain.
Of the top 20 UK retailers, 14 of them have mobile sites (if you don’t include Next) but only Currys has opted for responsive design.
As responsive design is generally seen as the future of web design it may seem surprising that just one of these retailers has adopted it, but it’s still a relatively new technology and would require a massive investment if these brands chose to replatform their sites.
Most of these businesses have poured a huge amount of time and money into refining their current desktop sites while building separate mobile site and apps, so I think its unlikely that they will decide to throw it all away and move to responsive design in the near future.
Currys had the benefit of not having an existing mobile site, so it didn’t have to make the decision to write off any previous investment – it was a straight choice between building a separate mobile site or going responsive.
Presumably easyJet faced the same dilemma but decided to build a separate mobile site, perhaps due to the fact that its mobile strategy is based on the success of its apps rather than the mobile web.
Overall then, it’s unsurprising that only one of the top 20 UK retailers has adopted responsive design, and we probably shouldn’t expect to see any of its competitors following suit in the immediate future.