Mobile Web Design: Responsive vs Adaptive (vs Parallel)

Responsive web design is something of a current fad for brand sites. Some people will tell you it is the ONLY way to develop. However, as with all things technology, the tool of choice should be a strategic one – what is the brand trying to achieve and what is the best way to deliver it? Responsive design is great for some things, but it may not always be appropriate. A large eCommerce site, is a good example of where responsive design is problematic.
The approach will also impact on SEO. eConsultancy have published an excellent article on the considerations of mobile design on SEO (see diagram below):
Adaptive, responsive and parallel mobile design

A new look for New Look

Another week and another brand gets in on the mobile-retail act. This week it’s high street brand, New Look with their fully transactional mobile site. Designed and developed by MIG, the site was developed for speed and ease of navigation on mobile. In fact it ticks all the boxes on how to build a mobile retail site: one click purchase for registered users (and a fast registration process if you’re not a user), clear simple menus and social media integration to ‘like’ products.  For a clean, simple yet functional site, retailers would not go too far wrong in taking a leaf out of New Look’s book.

You can see the site by pointing your mobile phone to

Some suprising stats about mobile web usage worldwide

Mobile analysts, Royal Pingdom, have produced some surprising research regarding worldwide mobile web usage. Proportionately it is highest in Asia and Africa. Not only that, the most used handsets by far are Nokia’s running Symbian OS. Or is it really that surprising? Given that these are proportional figures comparing fixed vs mobile web, rather than volumes. In the UK for example, 20m+ people access the mobile web every month. That represents over 20% of mobile users, however proportionately the web usage only accounts for just a few percent. That’s because mobile access is shorter demonstrating a more ‘snacking’ behaviour. In large parts of Africa and Asia, fixed web is difficult to obtain, and mobile offers the only practical way to get online. Similarly with the handsets, the iPhones and BlackBerrys of this world are just not available in many of those countries. They are the places where Nokia dominate.

Some countries particularly stand out for their relatively high mobile web usage: in Nigeria it’s 25% and in India and Bangladesh it’s 15%. What the figures don’t tell us is what kind of web usage it is. Are they browsing mobile optimised sites? Social media? Or email? Certainly the predictions that mobile web will overtake the fixed web in the next few years look very realistic.

There’s an app for that? I’d rather use the web, thanks.

Whilst brands have been rushing to get their apps (and the iphone variety in particular) into the appstores, a study has found that most mobile shoppers would prefer to use the mobile web. An Orange study (Orange Exposure 2010) has found that 70% of people would prefer it that way. In many ways these figures are unsurprising. So many brand apps could have been done using the mobile web, at less cost and with a far greater reach. Marks and Spencer‘s understand this. They don’t do apps. Apps don’t reach many of their customers (an interesting side note to this is that men are far more interested in downloading apps than women). Instead they came up with a fully transactional site with 26,000 products. And people buy from it. Would they have achieved the same success with an app? Very unlikely. Although the ebay iphone app has been successful, the company has a very broad demographic, and a very good mobile website.

Mobile retail is currently small – around £125m in the UK – but set to grow. Figures from Verdict and Ovum suggest that mobile retail sales in the UK will more than double in the next two yours with 4% of online sales being made by mobile browsers. Given that only around 2% of the UK buy through their mobile at the moment, the potential there waiting to be realised.

You can get more mobile internet stats here.

Retail mCommerce: the bandwagon rolls on

I have previously blogged about how big retail through mobile phones is going to be. The bandwagon started a few months ago with Marks and Spencer’s mobile site, followed last month by John Lewis. Tesco Direct have now launched their own fully fledged mobile site at . As with their fellow mCommerce retailers, the site has all the mCommerce functions you would expect, and is part of a plan to mobile-ise many of the Tesco services/products. Based on the M&S experience it is clear that people will buy through their mobile phones where the site functions well and the brand is trusted.

Meanwhile, in the US, Barney’s have launched their own mobile site (, selling luxury items. Are people going to buy expensive goods through their mobile phones? Given that eBay sold a $350k sports car through their mobile app, the answer is most certainly ‘yes’. Amazon already have revenues in excess of $1 billion globally through mCommerce and eBay expect to match that in the next 12 months, so expect to see an explosion of mobile-enable sites in the next year.

Mobile friendly sites: are brands beginning to get it?

A recent report from domobi (the people behind .mobi, strangely), shows that there has been a 2000 % increase in mobile optimised sites since 2008. Given that at the height of the web explosion (1996-8) the two your growth was 1300%, it shows how quickly the mobile channel is moving. On the whole this is weighted to the most used sites: in Alexa’s rankings, 40% of the top 1000 sites are mobile friendly, including the likes of Google, Facebook and Yahoo. However, the next 1000 most popular sites, the mobile optimisation drops to just over 20% and continues to dwindle with the next 1000 sites. So, whilst the big boys are beginning to catch on, it would seem that smaller sites and brands are yet to understand the benefit of the mobile web.

More here.

Who needs an app? John Lewis launches mCommerce site

Following on from Marks and Spencer’s succesful mcommerce site, that bastion of the middle class, John Lewis, has become the second UK retailer to provide a fully mobile offering. The department store currently has around 100,000 mobile visitors on their site each week, so developing a decent version makes a lot of sense. As with M&S, they have taken the mobile web route, which will work on all handsets, rather than go with the more restrictive apps. This makes sense, given their broad (but middle class) customer base. As the mobile site can deliver all of the necessary functions: browse and buy, storing credit card details and ‘find my nearest’ there seems little point (and unecessary expense) by creating apps that will only work on a few handsets. It is interesting to note, though, that some commentators on Twitter have claimed that JL have led the way (I would argue that M&S have), and that an app is sure to follow. That makes no sense. If you can do it all with mobile (which they have) then why would anyone need an app?

Whilst brands from Ocado (5% of their interent transactions come through their app) and eBay (150k Bentley bought through the mobile app) have seen success with apps, there is no question that the mobile web is right for John Lewis. Interestingly M&S reported that customers were buy beds and sofas, with values of up to £3000 through their mobile website. Strange? Well no, it’s quite obvious when you consider that people are going to buy these items when they move house. Most broadband takes up to 10 days to go live, so using your mobile to buy stuff makes a lot of sense. Making your site suitable for mobile makes even more sense to brands in this sector.

Mobile Retail: finally getting in on the act?

It was only a month ago that Marks and Spencer became the first UK high street retailer to launch a fully comprehensive, commerce-based mobile site. Besides Amazon, most other retailers have focussed on apps, or nothing at all for their mobile offereing.

However a recent article about a discussion from 5 CIOs of retailers shows that they clearly understand the limit of apps (no one opens them) and that mobile require their own specific sites.

So, it looks like retailers will finally get on board this year and produce some decent, mobile focussed sites that actually allow us to buy stuff!