Conversion Optimization for Responsive Web Design

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We’ve had lots of interest and inquiries about Responsive Web Design since our recent blog post. In it, we showed how Google recommends Responsive Web Design and is evolving their SERPs to use RWD.

With mobile usage skyrocketing and confusion abounding about how to handle T-commerce and various screen sizes, the high level of interest is justified.

Options for Mobile Conversion Optimization

You may be wondering how RWD fits into the mobile website discussion. There are generally four options for serving your mobile website visitors:

  • Using your standard site for mobile visitors
    This is a perfectly fine approach to take if your mobile traffic percentage is low. On most smartphones, the visitor can zoom in to read content and engage with your site. Small traffic numbers may not justify an investment for building anything else.At WiderFunnel, this is what we’ve done for our own site while our mobile traffic was in the low single digits. Now that it’s hitting double-digits, we’re building out a strategy for mobile.
  • Develop a mobile app
    A mobile app is a good strategy if you have a unique social or interactive platform or if your site is your product. Facebook, Twitter and WordPress are good examples where the app approach makes sense. But, if you have an ecommerce or B2B lead generation goal then this approach might not be for you. Most people won’t want to download an app just to visit your website and conversion optimization testing within a mobile app is not easily done.
  • Build a separate mobile site
    This is what a lot of companies have done and it is a viable alternative. The downside, however, is that you’ll have to maintain two (or more) independent websites.You’ll also need to double-up on testing for each site independently.
  • Building a responsive website
    When you build your site in RWD you don’t need to continually rebuild it for new screen sizes or devices. It’s literally a “one-size fits all” solution.Rather than having multiple pages and subdomains with the same content (like, with RWD each page has one URL. This means that your social interactions are aggregated rather than being split across multiple pages, and you only have to manage one page.

As I said in my previous blog post, Google has stated their preference for Responsive Web Design, which means there could benefits to your SEO efforts moving forward.

Does RWD Optimize Conversions?

There’s a good case to be made for how RWD saves cost versus building mobile sites or apps. It’s a future-proof solution that works for whatever browser sizes may emerge.

The more important question, however, is whether RWD maximizes conversions and revenue for all those screen sizes. Fortunately, there’s a good case to be made that it does – if the responsive site is designed properly.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog you’ll know that the best way to maximize conversions and revenue is through controlled conversion optimization testing. Continuous testing is how the best-performing companies maintain their leadership.

Good news: Conversion Optimization works for Responsive Web Design!

WiderFunnel is currently optimizing RWD websites for clients and generating interesting results. Our user-oriented perspective for generating test hypotheses works for all types of experiences, and RWD is no exception. We are working with our RWD clients to optimize the various conversion goals needed for mobile and desktop experiences.

How does it work?

Conversion testing for RWD works much like on any other site. Visitors to your website who arrive at your test page are randomly selected to be shown one of several ‘challenger’ variations of the page. (Read more about A/B/n testing and Multivariate testing here.)
Conversion Testing

The difference with testing on a RWD site is that your variation pages also need to scale elegantly throughout the range of possible screen sizes. This can add to the work involved in preparing the test but it can be avoided too.

The alternative is to select your most popular screen size to test with to find better performing content. Once you’ve determined a winning page, you can design the rest of the RWD screen sizes.

Make sure that you also run a follow-up A/B test with the fully responsive variation to make sure performance across screen sizes is consistent.

You may find that different devices and screen sizes respond to your content in different ways. With RWD, you can prioritize content and calls-to-action differently based on the browser dimensions, then customize those experiences for varying visitor scenarios.

RWD is a great option for mobile and tablet sites and gives a single solution for all screen sizes. It’s an exciting area to be testing in, and as we move ahead with more tests that incorporate RWD, I’ll be sure to share more insights with you.

So stay tuned!

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  • Brian Case

    Do you think it's easier to test when you have a platform based on RWD or mobile only? As I see it, the main advantage of responsive design is ease, but if testing is more difficult the advantage is a little smaller.

    • Testing isn't more or less difficult with either mobile-only or RWD. There's just a different process for each. RWD is more future-proof as it will seamlessly handle new in-between sizes, like the new 7" iPad, for exaample.

  • Glenn Johnson

    The best part about this is its sheer versatility. It doesn't even matter if it's a full website or a mobile version. Implemented properly, this system will be able to optimize just about any website.

  • jonathannwo

    It is good to see this. I recently wrote an article on how Google will be looking at RWD as a contributing ranking factor with search engine rankings soon.


  • Hi there, and thank for the post on this. Something we are starting to look at now that we have RWD in progress. I was interested that you advocated an 'all in one' approach with CRO testing on responsive sites. By that I mean you just run the one test, which is across all the traffic and all the devices at the same time? Do you then segment out the various sizes/device types to try to establish which sizes/flows of the design are contributing either positively or negatively to the overall conversion rate?

    Conversely, one could approach this by segmenting out the traffic int he first place, so, for example, only allowing mobile traffic into the test, and then you are effectively testing the mobile size/flow portion of the design for conversion rate. Later, you could test the wide layouts by only passing desktop traffic to the test. I wonder what your thoughts are on those two approaches?

    once again, my thanks for your original post ….

    • chrisgoward

      Yes, we often do test on desktop-only or mobile-only and then validate learning across other devices.

  • Ci Module

    Great article, in my opinion a responsive website is a most have,. Because all the difference devices with all the different screens, to react to this new change in online conversion. Also the fact that there will be more mobile devices compare to the 'old' desktop, is already enough to take a responsive webdesign!

  • We've been trying both mobile redirects and responsive designs against our traditional desktop sites and no variation beats the desktop version. I am starting to think that people are just used to their small screens. Is anyone actually testing RWD or are sites just being built? I can find no evidence that RWD helps conversion rate.

    Plus, with all Google's data, they would know if RWD actually helps a site's conversion rate and state this to get load off their crawlers. Instead they just say the recommend it because it's in their best interest.