It’s clear that mobile matters, and mobile-friendly websites are table stakes. But what is the best approach for mobile commerce?
Death of m.dot
In the early days of mobile-targeted web design – circa 2009, mobile domains (m.dot or .mobi sites) were the norm. Home pages were nothing more than a list of menu links. Some sites, like Best Buy, offered only search tools and store locators with no browse navigation, product photos or checkout functionality. Mobile platform vendors like Usablenet, mPoria, and Digby powered over 80 percent of these early m-commerce sites, while the remainder were built in-house.
We’ve come a long way since then, and m.dot sites are all but dead. A recent survey of the Internet Retailer 500 found use of m-dot sites for ecommerce has dropped from 79 percent in 2013 to 59 percent in 2014, with dynamic serving and responsive sites increasing 12 percent and 15 percent, respectively.
Despite the appeal of responsive design, dynamic serving is trending higher in 2015 than responsive among m-commerce sites, expected to pass 20 percent this year.
Responsive vs. Dynamic
Responsive design uses a combination of flexible grids and layouts, images, and CSS media queries to serve the best fit of design and content to a device’s size and specs.
One of the biggest advantages of responsive design is that it works off one set of URLs and HTML code. Rather than maintaining a separate m.dot (or t.dot) site, updates can be made universally through a single CMS, simplifying maintenance and ensuring real-time consistency of content.
One set of URLs is also better for SEO. Google prefers to only need to crawl one domain, eliminating duplicate content, and websites benefit from consolidated backlinks, rather than having some links point to the desktop and others the mobile domain.
Designers have the flexibility to modify and reduce content delivered to mobile screens, giving some control over experience optimization. However, with all this code in a single HTML file, the page load can slow significantly – a factor that’s bad for both user experience and SEO.