August 26, 2010, 11:06 AM

When it comes to m-commerce, test and test again is one retailer’s site design mantra

Barneys tested its m-commerce site on a range of mobile devices. 

Lead Photo

Jordan Holberg, e-commerce manager, Barneys

High end retailer Barneys New York went for speed and simplicity when it launched its mobile commerce site in October.

“We knew we were going to be selling extremely expensive merchandise that people want to see, but that we wouldn’t have a lot of real estate space to work with on mobile devices,” says Jordan Holberg, e-commerce manager, Barneys New York. “Most of us staff live in New York where everyone has an iPhone or a Droid, but we realized not everyone is a New Yorker or a Beverly Hills fashionista with a new smartphone.”

Barneys decided to seek the m-commerce middle ground by determining which image sizes and resolutions would load fast and look the best across a wide range of mobile devices.


How did it find the happy medium? Good old fashioned testing. Holberg and his team began loading beta versions of Barneys’ mobile site on every type of phone they could get their hands on. Holberg used Google Analytics to determine what kinds of mobile devices shoppers most frequently used to access its e-commerce site and also tried out the site on an array of other popular phones and smartphones. “We looked at the Motorola Razr, various forms of BlackBerrys, iPhones, Google Android phones and even the LG Chocolate,” Holberg says.

The results: Thumbnail images in mobile search results look and load best on the most devices at 75 by 75 pixels, about the size of a postage stamp, compared with 154 by 154 pixels on Barneys’ e-commerce site. Images on product detail images are best at 200 pixels by 200 pixels on mobile compared with 308 pixels by 308 pixels on Once it found its sweet spot, Barneys used the rich media imaging system on its e-commerce site to resize photos without having to re-upload each one. Barneys’ rich media imaging system is from ChannelAdvisor Corp.

“My advice is to test over and over on the phones themselves,” Holberg says. “It’s very repetitive and boring, but that’s the only way you are really going to understand the user experience.”

Since the site has launched, it’s been easy for Barney’s to keep its m-commerce site neat and pared-down so that it will load clearly and quickly on mobile devices, Holberg says. That’s because the same vendor, Demandware Inc., provides the platform for both its e-commerce and mobile sites, he adds.

When merchandisers add an element to the conventional web site, they can choose whether or not to place it on the mobile site. Images not associated with products, such as pictures promoting in-store events or restaurants, are usually nixed. “We try to stick mainly to shopping, ” Holberg says.

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