The Data That Drove Our Responsive Design

In my last post breaking down the new Detailed Image, I wrote the following about our responsive design:

If you haven’t figured it out by now, this was the main driving force behind this project. Mobile and tablet usage on our site has skyrocketed, with Safari on iOS becoming our #1 browser/OS combo. It’s a trend that’s only going to continue. We needed to up our game. This will be the topic of my next post where I’ll dive into some of the data. We cut the project down significantly so that we could release ASAP because every day we were without a responsive design we felt like we were losing out on a ton of potential sales.

So let’s dive into some numbers. We review our analytics regularly so the increase in mobile usage hasn’t really come as a surprise to us. It’s been happening for a few years. Anyone paying attention to smartphones knows that mobile commerce has grown through the roof.

What did surprise us a bit towards the end of 2012 was that 1) mobile traffic was on pace to overtake computer traffic in the not-too-distant future, and 2) our mobile conversion rates were significantly lower than our computer conversion rates.

Shouldn’t mobile conversion rates be lower you say? Industry data seems to suggest so, but we knew that our old half-baked mobile site was costing us sales. We’d only find out how many sales by releasing a site where the experience was comparable across devices.

We were due for a design and programming “refresh” on DI. What drove us to focus on the responsive design above all else was what we found when we dove into the numbers a bit more. Take a look at the browser usage and screen resolutions for the five month period of October 1, 2012 – March 1, 2013:

Browser Usage

Detailed Image Browser Usage Oct 2012 - Mar 2013

Screen Resolutions

Detailed Image Browser Resolutions Oct 2012 - Mar 2013

A few notes/conclusions:

  • Green browsers are ones that we extensively tested and fully support. Yellow we tested and support, although things might not look the same or work quite as well (ahem IE7). Red were tested briefly (except Safari on Blackberry – sorry, don’t have one of those). Everything below we ignored.
  • We added the “Trend” column based upon our data and general industry knowledge: IE9 will go down and IE10 will go up once Microsoft releases IE10 as a required update, Android Browser will go down as Chrome becomes the default, and Safari isn’t being updated on Windows anymore.
  • It’s clear that between Safari on iOS, the Android browser, and Chrome on Android and Safari that mobile is impossible to ignore. Over 30% of our visitors are using those browsers. If anything we should be developing for mobile webkit first and everything else second.
  • The resolutions confirm that the site needs to work equally as good on all screens. The top 5 range from only 8.13% to 9.8%, and include the iPad (768×1024), iPhone < 5 and popular Android phones (320x480), 1080p monitors (1920x1080), and popular laptop resolutions (1366x768 and 1280x800)
  • When using mobile devices, people hold them in the upright portrait view much more than they do the landscape view.
  • It’s important to note that our usage is not equal to the global trends for the same time period. iOS usage is only 3.34%, Chrome is far and away the most popular browser at 34%, and Android usage surpasses iOS by 9%. In short, it seems like our users are a little ahead of the curve and that they prefer iOS devices.
  • As tech savvy as our customers are, Internet Explorer 7 and 8 still make up a substantial portion of visitors. 7.51% for IE8, along with it being the last IE release on XP, meant that we had to treat it as an important browser that’s not going anywhere. IE7 usage will slowly fall off, but at 1.62% it’s still too large to ignore.

At this point in early March, we dialed back the scope of the project, readjusted our priorities a bit, and really made the responsive design the #1 feature. The thought was that every day we were without a better mobile experience we were hemorrhaging easy sales. There was a sense of urgency to release ASAP, and we did.

So far, so good. There’s nothing statistically significant about three weeks worth of sales, but we’re certainly off to a good start. Sales are up. Conversion rates are up across the board, with conversion rates on mobile now up much closer to conversion rates on computers. If nothing else, there’s a sense of relief that we didn’t totally screw things up!

In my next post I’ll explain how we go about browser testing, device testing, and supporting older browsers…without driving ourselves mad.

5 comments on The Data That Drove Our Responsive Design

  1. Tim says:

    Very helpful information Adam! Can you comment on mobile/tablet conversion improvement? Has there been a discernable improvement?

    I’ve read that mobile average ticket conversions are higher than desktop, but that data seems a little suspect. Do you feel you have enough data to comment? It seems very obvious that the mobile shopping environment has been going through revolutionary change in the last 6 – 12 months. Usage is also still undergoing enormous change, I think it’s entertaining to look at Devices within Analytics and see the spike of iPad traffic from 12/25/12 to date. Prior to Christmas traffic was steadily in the high single to low double digit’s by percentage, post holidays it was double digits, approaching 18% last month! That’s not including iPhone, just iPad – crazy growth.

    Just thinking on a personal level, a year ago I would be cautious about making a purchase from a mobile device, now I wouldn’t hesitate from a trusted site. Amazing to think this all started less than 6 years ago.

    • Adam McFarland says:

      Can you comment on mobile/tablet conversion improvement? Has there been a discernable improvement?

      Yes, it’s definitely been huge. I don’t usually post raw numbers or conversion info publicly. I have Bobby working up a report for the team right now, I’ll forward you a copy when it’s done.

      I’ve read that mobile average ticket conversions are higher than desktop, but that data seems a little suspect.

      That doesn’t appear to be the case for us: both before and after the new site the average order value for mobile is about 90% of what a computer user purchases. AOV for us has been steady for years – one of our next initiatives is to get that number up.

      Just thinking on a personal level, a year ago I would be cautious about making a purchase from a mobile device, now I wouldn’t hesitate from a trusted site.

      Same here. The only time I buy on my phone is through the Amazon app because I don’t want to type, but more and more I’m buying stuff on my iPad…especially through retailers where I have all of my info saved and just need to re-enter my CC.

      Seemingly the trend is just beginning. Most people don’t do the things you or I do on a computer and only occasionally need one to type out an email, do some banking, or write a word doc, and even those things are doable now with a mobile device. I can see how a family of 4 would only need one single older computer for very specific tasks and then tablets and phones for the rest. Come to think of it, I just visited a family of 5 and in the week I spent with them I saw an iPad, Kindle Fire, and a lot of phones, but no computer. People just don’t need them for everyday use anymore.

  2. Tim says:

    Very true, when home I am rarely opening my computer, I do the majority of my tooling around on my phone or tablet. I was all gun-ho to buy a new computer a few months ago, now I’m just hanging back, I’m sure I’ll do something in the next 6 months but it will be a reduction of hardware, not another piece of hardware.

    I just discovered an amazing application for mac called Type2Phone, it allows you to use the keyboard on a mac computer to type on an iOS device, like a bluetooth keyboard but without an extra peripheral. I see our family converting to a single computer, currently we have 3 and tablets and smart phones. Feather in a device like an Apple TV, a router with an option to have a network harddrive, cloud data storage solutions, streaming services and how we use technology is being revolutionized! Since I’ve been using Type2Phone I see huge value in having a keyboard on a tablet or smartphone, it increases it’s function significantly. While at work it’s a no brainer!

    • Adam McFarland says:

      Type2Phone looks pretty cool, especially for anyone (like us) who is around their computer a lot while they’re doing things like sending text messages.

      Aside from work, I rarely need a computer. I generally use my iPad or phone to browse the web and keep up on my LockerPulse, Twitter, and Google Reader. A chromebook would probably actually suffice since I use Gmail and Google Docs for my personal email and document management.

  3. [...] I illustrated in my last post, our users are quite a bit different from the global web usage. We looked at 5 months of usage. [...]

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