Picture the scene…. It’s 11.30pm on a Monday night, my PC downstairs has been switched off for a while and I’m tucked up in bed ready to catch some flies. It then suddenly dawns on me that I’ve got a christening to go to at the weekend and ideally, I could do with a new pair of smart but casual black trousers. There won’t be any opportunity for me to get into town to have a look around the shops before the weekend, so online shopping will have to do. I can’t be bothered to wait for my ageing PC to boot up again and I haven’t got the luxury of an iPad so it’s all down to my trusty iPhone with wifi connection again.
The first shop that sprung to mind was Next (yes… I’m classy / chic like that). So, I fired up the iPhones Safari browser and pointed it at www.next.co.uk. The homepage loaded within a few seconds and I set about on my mission of finding some black trousers. Here’s where my problems started though. I was presented with a perfectly laid out site with no overlapping text, buttons or images, but everything on the screen was absolutely tiny. I could just about make out where I needed to click/press to get into the ‘mens’ section and then the ‘trousers’ section but from there on in, it was a case of 2 finger pinching, scrolling left to right and trying to avoid clicking on links or calls to action and mistakenly adding things to my cart when all I was trying to do was read the product descriptions.
After 10 minutes of generally getting lost in the site due to the tiny, tiny pagination, finding myself in the ‘homeware’ section and mistakenly adding a lamp to my basket, struggling to remove said lamp from basket and then taking ages to get back to page 5 of 10 of the ‘trousers’ > ‘casual’ section, I was ready to launch my iPhone at the wall and give up on my mission.
It’s at that point that I decided to try and buy some trousers from a different high street retailer’s website, Republic to be precise. A quick Google search led me straight to their homepage and the first screen presented to me was a far cry from what I’d just been trying to navigate. I was presented with big buttons, a nice big search box, an expandable list of easy to understand categories and product listing pages that had nice big images, product descriptions and ‘add to cart’ buttons. I didn’t have to pinch and zoom in or out at anytime and neither did I find myself scrolling from left to right or mistakenly adding things to my cart. To cut a long story short, I managed to buy some trousers on the Republic site and the general user experience was so pleasant that I even went on to buy a few other items of clothing that I didn’t really need but hey ho!
You’ve probably read all of that thinking to yourself… ‘Why the hell has he just told us about buying a new pair of trousers’??
Well, here’s my point: Next didn’t get any of my money but Republic did due to the simple fact that they appear to have made their site responsive and adaptive to different viewports. I can only hazard a confident guess but I’m pretty sure that this kind of thing happens millions of times over across the internet everyday, people navigating away from sites due to them being unusable on the increasing number of handheld devices. This doesn’t just stop at people getting frustrated by online shopping experiences but also just finding general information such as local bus service times, doctors surgery contact numbers etc etc. The list could go on forever. It’s a known fact that already half of all local searches are performed on mobile devices and by the end of 2014 mobile internet users will overtake desktop internet users.
The whole trouser buying ordeal made me realise just how important a responsive web layout is to retailers and organisations if they want people to visit or use their site successfully. Responsive web design is not just the next big web design ‘fad’, it’s a necessity that cannot be ignored.
A few nights after my trouser buying ordeal, I bought the highly acclaimed book ‘Responsive Web Design‘ by Ethan Marcotte. Of all the web development related books I’ve bought over the years, this is by far the most inspirational one I’ve read and I would highly recommend it to anyone.
It’s without a doubt, a time for web designers and developers to don a new pair of responsive working trousers!
You may have noticed that this site is not responsive (at the time of writing of this). We’re curently evaluating a number of responsive grid-based frameworks and will then put what we’ve learnt into practise by altering a number of our public facing sites so that they are effectively ‘responsive’.