October 1, 2012, 12:00 AM

Every-screen e-commerce

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While the initial startup cost to design and develop a responsive site can be equivalent to creating separate desktop and mobile sites, the advantages to a unified approach can reap significant cost savings over the site's lifetime.

Responsive design is by no means a perfect technology. The costs involved in the initial design and development process are not insignificant, and creating checkout functionality that creates a fluid experience across devices can be a challenge. Also, some have pointed to potential performance issues relating to the time required to perform queries, which can lead to page load times slightly slower than traditional sites.

"As with any new approach, there are a number of areas that still need attention," FutureSimple's Halperin says. "However, workarounds are introduced every day."

Looking ahead, how will responsive design evolve over time?

"We'll see more examples of responsive sites that take more context into consideration," Frost says.

For instance, photo galleries that respond to a mouse on a desktop will respond to a swipe of the finger on touchscreen devices. Geolocation functionality will be used to show the available inventory in nearby stores and present offers based on a user's location. Telephone links on site pages will appear on wireless-connected devices, but not on other devices. The list goes on.

Halperin takes it further: "I see responsive design evolving to 'adapt' to user criteria other than device characteristics. We'll begin to see specialized content related to network connection quality and [that uses] collected user data to present unique content based on shopping habits, financial considerations from recent social networking posts and other cues, perhaps even mood."

Randy Kohl is senior content strategist at e-commerce and m-commerce marketing and design firm Gorilla Commerce.

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