If you are setting up your first online store, you probably imagine your customers using the web more or less like you do. They enjoy the same kinds of products you do, surf the web like you do, and shop a lot like you do. If you assume this is true, however, you might inadvertently cut off sales from a huge number of potential customers. In order to design an effective website, you need to meet your customers with quality, no matter how they reach your website.
Screens of Every Size
One major challenge of web design is accounting for a huge range of devices and screen sizes. Not long ago, everyone who shopped online did so from a desktop or laptop computer, because those were the only choices. It was relatively easy to optimize a website for browsing from a traditional computer, because there weren’t many options for screen sizes. This is far from true today. Research shows that a growing segment of web users browse primarily from their smartphones, and another segment split their Internet use across multiple devices. Optimizing your website for a large screen means it may be totally illegible to a customer using a phone or small tablet to browse your store. Optimizing for small phone screens may make the site difficult to use on a laptop or desktop.
Size on the Fly
To handle the multitude of devices people use for browsing (and shopping) online, your website needs to flexibly handle every kind of device which people use to access it. There are multiple ways to make this work. New design principles, often called responsive design, make it possible for websites to scale quickly to the size of any screen. Some website providers rely on these principles heavily to make a single website work on any device. Others rely on specialized templates for different devices. Your software provider may have specific iPhone website templates, for example, which serves the content of your store in a clean, attractive way to users who visit via iPhones.
How to Make It Work
If you are setting up your website from scratch, take flexibility into consideration as you consider hosting and software providers for your store. Make sure the provider you choose has a good solution for serving websites to any size of screen. Test out some existing sites on as many devices as you can. Ask friends who use different kinds of phones or tablets to explore those sites with you, so you can get a feel for their functionality.
If you have an existing website that is not optimized for use on many screens, you may need to redesign your site. Before engaging in a huge redesign project, however, look for service providers that can automatically convert your traditional website into a mobile-friendly form. You may be able to save time and money on a complete redesign.
No matter what you do, either in setting up a brand new store or redesigning an existing one, take the broad array of devices used today into account. No matter where your customers browse from, meet them with a great website design.