A responsive ecommerce website or a mobile shopping app?

by Andrew Larson
Published 9-9-2015

Web development standards are evolving every year which has proven to be difficult for website owners and ecommerce sites to keep up. An ecommerce site can be expensive to build and maintain; therefore, the recent changes in the past few years regarding the adoption of responsive design has led to many website owners re-evaluating.

Today, smartphones and tablets of varying screen size are available in the market be it Android, iOS, or Windows phones. With every one owning a smartphone or tablet, web design experts have had to return back to the drawing board in order to come up with better solutions.

Enter responsive frameworks, the best solution that web development and design experts have viewed as the way to create a cross platform websites and online stores. Shopping on the majority of old ecommerce sites today can be summed up in one word – painful.

As mobile visitors are forming the largest chunk of online users, experts and search engines are pushing website owners to go responsive.

Is a responsive ecommerce website right for you or should you have a mobile shopping app instead?

For many business owners, it’s a tough call to make when one begins to evaluate between rebuilding their current website to be responsive or build an app instead. To make the decision easier, you need to review your business goals.

Is responsive design a cure for all?

As a business, it can be cheaper to overhaul your current website to be responsive rather than build different apps for different smartphones running on different operating systems. While big companies are able to afford having a complete overhaul of the site and build different apps, in the long run it can be too expensive to maintain.

The best thing about responsive design is that it can be viewed on different screen sizes as the framework code can resize itself to fit perfectly. This allows any business to run a single site with ease therefore allowing users to access it via different platforms and devices.

Responsive design is easier to build as there are different frameworks already available and all any business needs is to hire the right developers and designers. The Twitter Bootstrap framework is currently the most widely used responsive framework by web professionals, and it’s what we use as well.

When it comes to search engines such Google, they have decided to reevaluate their search engine ranking algorithm to rank websites that are mobile friendly higher than those which are not. When the changes were made, thousands of sites that were known to have high traffic daily lost a great deal of their traffic. This is a huge loss and something to be factored in when making the decision to move from non-responsive to responsive design.

What about a mobile app?

Mobile apps today consume nearly 95% of content that is found in user’s smartphones and tablets. Apps can range from shopping, security, productivity, and games among others. As they offer a unique and compelling mobile specific experience to customers, this is one of the main reasons why building apps can be better than redesigning your site.

The best way to make this decision is to analyze data using analytics web software like Google analytics. All you need to do is to check the number of visits made by users via different mobile phones. This will not only make your decision easier but you will get to know which operating system to build your app for.

What's the verdict?

Responsive design and mobile apps have their advantages and disadvantages that ensure the user gets the best experience when shopping. As a business, in order to make the right decision between the two, you need to evaluate according to your business long term goals and budget.