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You mean Responsive Design isn’t the answer to all of my problems?

Over the past couple of years the explosive growth of mobile commerce has put immense pressure on retailers to cater to smartphone and tabet visitors. The right way to build engaging mobile experiences is a big question for retailers and for many, Responsive Web Design is the answer.

Responsive web sites are built in a flexible and adaptable grid format that allows the site to display well across a range of devices. Beyond that, Responsive Web Design is an approach that focuses on limiting resizing, panning and scrolling to provide the best experience for visitors. Many of our customers have embraced responsive design and a lot of our partners have been doing it for years. We even did a webinar on how to apply responsive design principles to other parts of your business.

But it’s not perfect.

While Responsive Web Design solves some problems, it is often criticized as being very slow. Internet Retailer Magazine covered this topic in their June 2014 issues in an article entitled “The ugly truth about responsive design (and how to fix it).” This cover story explored the speed of retailing sites that employed responsive design sites and found that “site load times on smartphones are not only slow – at 18 seconds, they’re very slow”.

Is it really all about speed?

The Internet Retailer article was very focused on page speed, a fairly standard metric for site performance. However, when we talk about the performance of an ecommerce site, speed isn’t the only metric. Why spend so much time talking about technical speeds and feeds when what really matters are the business metrics of your site like conversion rate, average order value and cart abandonment rate.

Measuring these items (and others) allows you to find bottlenecks in your site performance and understand where your site can be improved. We believe in the importance of these metrics so much that we’ve written about the top 10…

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So now that you know the measures of engagement, how do you improve them?

The article presents a number of options for improving responsive site speed, but I’m going to speak about just one – optimization. Beyond its current buzzword status, site optimization means building a website that is structured to deliver the best version of your site to each visitor – a website that delivers regardless of a visitor’s location or device.

There are a number of ways you can optimize your site. We actually talk about DIY methods in our Ready Set Optimize webinar, which you can check out here. From using GZIP compression to minification, the webinar details very specific (and technical) steps you can take to improve your site performance.

The webinar goes on to discuss additional options for optimization including working with a developer on custom optimizations and using a CDN network.

Working with a developer on custom optimizations can be a great way to see dramatic improvement in your site speed, but the ongoing maintenance of those optimizations is incredibly time consuming. It can also be nearly impossible to cater to every type of visitor profile.

On the opposite side of the spectrum a CDN is great at ensuring that your content gets delivered regardless of location, but a CDN does nothing to help adjust your site delivery for those on mobile or tablet devices.

We see most of our clients leverage a mix of the above tactics to improve their site’s performance. We’ve also seen some struggle with maintaining any improvements they saw. Inspired by this we were thrilled to introduce Tenzing Site Optimizer earlier this year. As a complete Front End Optimization engine, it is an automated combination of the above tactics. It will identify the performance profile of your visitors and then apply application sequencing, front end optimization and caching techniques based on a visitor’s location and device. Check out the impact it had on the Tenzing’s site performance here.

Whether you decide to try your hand at some DIY optimizations, investigate whether a CDN is right for you, or sign up for an assessment and trial of Tenzing Site Optimizer, I hope you’ve found this article, our webinar and ebook useful.

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