Mobile-Friendly Websites and eCommerce

Mobile Friendly

Many of you may have noticed that I have been continually touting the importance of having a mobile-friendly website for promoting artwork. As my own webmaster, I am constantly utilizing Google Analytics to monitor the traffic to my website and how people are purchasing my paintings. Over the last several years, I have been noticing a large increase in online purchasing via mobile device and recently I took major steps to help promote and facilitate this growing trend. If you haven’t read my blog post entitled “WordPress for my New Art Website,” take the time to do so as it reveals my many motivations for redesigning my fine art website beyond simple mobile compatibility.

For several years I had the mindset that art is one of the few things that a consumer would definitely prefer to view in person or over a large desktop screen in order to see accurate color and detail before purchasing. Since the work will be hanging in a prominent place in one’s home and admired regularly, it seemed logical to me that a larger image would be required due to its more revealing nature. Believe it or not, however, Google Analytics and customer polling have revealed that nearly 30% of my online sales of original artwork originate from a mobile device. Since I have never had a painting returned, I have had to accept the fact that purchasing artwork through a mobile format is a valid means of commerce for a large segment of our populace. I really shouldn’t be surprised since you can’t go anywhere without seeing someone utilizing a smartphone, iPad, or Android-based device. In fact, industry expectations are that within the next couple years mobile devices will surpass laptops and desktops as the platforms of choice to explore the Internet. Technology is advancing quickly and modern consumers are embracing it. Newer high-tech displays are apparently becoming clear enough to attract even the most discriminating purchasers of art.

With that in mind, it is clear that in order to remain competitive, it is necessary to create websites that are going to be easily visible and usable regardless of the platform on which they are viewed. A website that can be comfortably accessed from anywhere through any device is going to get more purchasing opportunities than one that is limited to desktop accessibility. The world is changing and it is up to the modern business to change with it. In an age of impulse-purchasing, creating a website that can easily facilitate instant purchasing is key. If you miss the opportunity to make the sale, the customer is likely to move on to another website that meets their needs. Large corporations such as Sears, Walmart, Kmart, Target, Ebay, Amazon, and Sony have all embraced mobile-formatted sites because they recognize the importance of improving a mobile user’s shopping experience and small businesses should take note.

At this point, the question becomes whether webmasters need to create a dedicated mobile-format website or create one that changes its display characteristics based upon the particular viewing platform. Although either method will be effective, I previously had a dedicated mobile version of my website and found that it quickly fell to the wayside due to time-constraints that limited my ability to update a dual-site format.

For the newest iteration of my fine art website, I decided to move to a fully responsive WordPress-based platform. There are many themes available for WordPress that will reformat themselves based upon the screen width of the device that they are being viewed upon. The year 2012 has seen an incredible number of these responsive themes being created as website developers take note of the evolving mobile device trend. While WordPress may not be the perfect platform for all fine art eCommerce sites, I have found it to be the perfect fit for my needs.

As I mention in the text above, this is a fantastic time to embrace the mobile eCommerce movement and if you haven’t thought about upgrading your site for a while, mobile-compatibility might be an important factor to consider for your next site revision. As search result providers begin to serve results that they deem to be more relevant to web-surfers, improving the user experience for your visitors is something that will eventually lead to better SEO, higher visibility, and more sales.

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Comments (19)
  • richie montgomery September 2, 2012

    Great idea, I would like to have my art on a website utilizing this technology. 🙂

    • Ken Powers September 2, 2012

      Thanks Richie! So far I am very pleased with the WordPress format and the responsive theme I chose for the website’s design. Hopefully this recent complete site redesign I’ve done will increase accessibility and improve the overall user experience of the site. And…it was really easy to setup and will make future updates a breeze!

  • Dai Wynn September 2, 2012

    Thanks for this excellent article, Ken. It caused me to rethink a lot of what I attempt online for my own art promotion.

    Whenever I finish a painting, I post its image to RedBubble, Saatchi, Pinterest, Etsy, Fine Art America, Artsia, my FaceBook wall, my FaceBook Page, (Twitter via multiple links), my WordPress ‘blog, my weekly eNewsletter, a widescreen/desktop website and a “thumb-sensitive, Flash-free, restricted content, narrow-width” mobile-friendly website on a sub-domain “m.daiwynn.com”.

    Code in my widescreen/desktop website automatically directs devices with screen widths of less than 1024 pixels to my mobile site. QR codes on my business cards and stationery lead to my mobile site. Paypal buttons allow users to buy from my mobile site. Yet, the traffic to m.daiwynn.com is miniscule.

    I have even made a significant effort to use Javascript for animating my home page slideshow, given that Apple iPhones and iPads do not support Adobe Flash. On the WordPress front, I had noticed when upgrading recently, that the format was narrower and that I needed to reduce the size of my image.

    While increasing the number of Google search results (against my name “Dai Wynn”) and generating a few more website hits, this frenzied online activity creates a lot more non-painting work. I need to constantly remind myself that, while I quite like programming, I must spend a greater proportion of my waking hours painting. Changing pricing on an artwork requires me to alter numbers in a large number of places. PayPal buttons in several locations is also a hassle.

    Was it you or was it Drew the Skinny Artist who advised artists to link back to one shopping site in order to reduce ongoing website maintenance?

    To return to the topic of mobile commerce, and thanks to your superb article above, I will redesign my mobile-friendly site based on a WordPress format. I may have to make some “buttons” larger to accommodate thumbs, but generally this will address the following issues:

    * Only one PayPal button in one location per artwork;
    * No need for a separate mobile site (with slideshow and PayPal buttons on each image);
    * Slideshow images on the widescreen/desktop site will link to the WordPress mobile site too;
    * WordPress offers an archive, is fully searchable by name, part name and keywords;
    * Server storage requirements will reduce as a result of this rationalisation.

    The only downside is that my WordPress ‘blogs attract spam, despite the ReCAPTCHA facility.

    All goodness and light. However, the sales are elusive as ever. I am now looking at the “value for money” proposition. Either my artworks are not good enough, or I charge too much.

    To be continued.

    • Ken Powers September 2, 2012

      I know what you mean Dai Wynn! One of the other important reasons I went to the responsive format was to simplify my life. It would literally take me 45 minutes to an hour to add new work to my website and print fulfillment sites. Creating the PayPal BuyNow buttons was a time consuming hassle since their site is so slow. Then, there would be additional work needed to drive traffic to my central storefront via social networks and forums. With my available marketing time becoming slimmer and slimmer, streamlining my approach was desperately needed. I had a special mobile formatted site that actually was a web app available through Apple which was a great traffic generator. 🙂 I found, however, that my time constraints left me essentially abandoning it or updating it very infrequently. With the new site, the mobile version is automatically taken care of and it still remains in the Apple Web App store. Nearly all my problems are solved and I can devote more time to painting and sharing information.

      As for linking back to one shopping site, I think Drew and I share similar philosophies. In my book, I advocate a central storefront to which all social networks and marketing materials point. This definitely reduces the need to continually upload the same image to multiple services. In turn, it probably keeps a person from having to update multiple online presences as often and more time can be spent with interaction and developing customer relationships. I think a central storefront really aids in establishing brand identity as well.

      As for your WordPress spam issue, I know there are some plug-ins to aid with that but I have also seen code snippets that can be added to the .htaccess file in the root directory that can help stop direct access to the comment files by spam bots. People swear this is the best approach to eliminate spam but I have yet to personally try it as my blog is so new that spam isn’t an issue for me. Let me know if you have tried this option yet.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment and let me know your experiences. You are definitely seeing many of the issues that I have had when it comes to web updates. I enjoy programming but I enjoy painting more and that is where I want to be focusing most of my time.

  • Dai Wynn September 4, 2012

    Ken, may I tender an update on WordPress website update progress?

    Over the past 48 hours I have updated WordPress to the current revision and installed iFeature 4.5 after looking at a number of free responsive WordPress themes.

    I tweaked the iFeature theme to suit my needs which included a non-Flash slide show and a search function. Since I hope my site will be browsed by smartphones, I have installed a “Click to call Dai now” button with my mobile (cellphone) number at top centre. I also commented out the random stuff in the footer.

    Rather than renaming my website files and folders, I have simply added two redirects in the Apache server – one from the original 300+ page website, and the other from my cut-down, smartphone-friendly site.

    I am pleased with the result. Three separate websites rolled into one. A click-to-call button, still prominent when collapsed to smartphone screen size. A slide-show. A search function. PayPal buttons prominent under each painting. Comprehensive menus. FB “Like” buttons. Google Plus buttons. Social network links.

    The new daiwynn.com site is a significant improvement, but not quite perfect. The slide show tends to crop the lower part of the (already heavily cropped) slide images when squeezed into a smaller format, and the search box – being part of the sidebar – disappears to the bottom of the scrolled page.

    Google’s “GoMoMeter” (www.howtogomo.com/en/d/test-your-site/) gives me a 4 out of 6 because my “phone number and location are not clearly visible” (despite the Click-to-Call button) and the site took 37.28 seconds to load (more than 5 seconds). A much better measure is given by (http://m.previewmymobile.com/site/m.daiwynn?dm_try_mode=true). One needs to scroll to the bottom and click on “classic” to avoid someone’s idea of an ideal background. Apparently it works on Android, iPhone, Windows Phone and Blackberry devices.

    Thank you again for your brilliant suggestion.

    • Ken Powers September 5, 2012

      I am pleased to know the article was useful and helped spur a web revision. I think your new responsive site looks great via mobile (I use an iPhone) and I really hope it drives more sales your way.

      The loading time appears to be the only real issue and that is a tough one to change since there are so many images. This is to be expected with an art related website though.

      Congratulations on the revision and keep me posted about future updates!

      Ken

      • Dai Wynn September 5, 2012

        On further reflection, the “Click-to-call” button was bound to cause confusion on non-smartphone screens. Clearly, when there are no speech facilities, browsers don’t know what to do with a telephone number. So I have replaced it with a “Contact” button which links to a newly generated “page” containing a “Click-to-call” button, the telephone number, contact details in a JPEG form (to avoid spambots) and an artist’s statement and résumé. These buttons are all left-justified and prominent even on small screens.

        To reduce the time to load, I could reduce the number of slide images and drop their resolution to 72dpi. However, as you point out, it is an art site so let’s hope the genuine collectors are patient, or use a desktop instead.

        Thanks Ken. I do appreciate your professional encouragement and wish you even greater success in your own endeavours.

        Dai

        • Ken Powers September 5, 2012

          I think you made the right decision Dai. I took a look and the Contact button seems to be a much more logical decision. It is the little details that add to the end user experience. I am glad to see you are taking pro-active steps to embrace the mobile commerce platform. I wish you much success!

  • Enzie Shahmiri September 7, 2012

    Great article Ken! I shared it and promptly checked my own site to make sure everything works! 🙂

    • Ken Powers September 7, 2012

      Thank you Enzie! I definitely think mobile devices are the future of eCommerce!

  • Paul Woodard September 8, 2012

    I fine this site terrible since I can’t expand the site on my iPad -I like the option to make the text larger, when I can’t I don’t come back.

    My humble opinion and personal view

    • Ken Powers September 8, 2012

      I definitely hear what you are saying Paul and I see you have gone with a completely non-responsive theme for your own WordPress website at http://zenofmud.org/

      I think that specific issue is a definite downside to this particular theme. It changes its layout based upon device but doesn’t allow the text to be increased in size. It disables any pinch-to-zoom features as well which would be handy for zooming in on the artwork itself. I may present this issue to the theme’s designer and see if the text size can be flexible and responsive as well. If not, I may go in and modify it myself since the text is almost too small for my aging eyes to see (I wear bifocals). Unfortunately, there are no mobile responsive themes that will be a 100% solution for everybody. I do like the way this theme represents the artwork in the portfolio though. Like everything that involves technology, it is an ever-evolving project and hopefully will continue to improve. Thank you so much for your input. 🙂

  • Edwin van der Veer September 24, 2012

    Hi Ken

    Great article!
    A few months ago I too ditched my old WP theme in favor of a new ‘responsive’ one. Whether we like it or not, the future is all about mobile. People are always on the go and likewise do not always have time to spend in front of a computer. (I know I don’t ;))

    There’s still one problem I need to get fixed and that is a ‘store’ option on the mobile side. I noticed that you too have a Fine Art America account. From a mobile, you just link to your artists page I guess ? Pity though, that there’s little to adjust on that page, like background color and such.

    Anyway, I would really love to show a mobile visitor a page with my art work, that’s more adjusted to the page one views from a desktop.

    I use ‘Core’ as a theme for WordPress and basically that would have been all that is needed to cater for all different devices. Unfortunately, I noticed that looking at my iPhone screen, the Home page wasn’t that great to look at. That’s why I decided to use WPTouch Pro from Bravenewcode. At its current version (2.7.3) it has a lot of great options to choose from and make your site somewhat unique and mobile friendly. The only drawback is that in the desktop version of the Core theme, I use an iFrame to show my store. That’s something I can not pull off in WPTouch Pro. So now I’m in doubt whether to use the iFrame and switch off WPTouch for that particular page or to use an image for the store page, that links to Fine Art America ? (where I have most of my images)

    Any ideas on that ?

    • Ken Powers September 24, 2012

      Thanks for stopping by and reading the article Edwin. It is nice to know that there are others out there who realize the importance of the mobile format. I think it won’t be long before the desktop machine is a thing of the past.

      As for the FAA page, I am just using their basic page. I still have to create the modified custom shop version. A week or so ago I did an experiment where I created an additional theme template page for the WowWay theme I am using that used its header, stylesheets, etc… and then displayed the FAA shop within an iframe on the page. It looked amazing on a desktop machine. I even changed the FAA page’s positioning to cut off the header and navigation showing on the FAA artistwebsite’s page. Everything was fully functional and you couldn’t tell that it wasn’t part of the main site. The only thing that made me get rid of it until I can find another solution is that the FAA site doesn’t resize and is not responsive in any way. When the page reformatted for mobile devices, my theme looked great but the inlaid FAA page would stay its regular size and push off the screen with no way to pinch and zoom it back. I am still trying to figure something out and I too considered just having a link on each portfolio entry to a print purchasing page on FAA. It is not the elegant integrated solution that I have been looking for unfortunately.

      I will keep you posted if I figure out how to make something work.

  • Edwin van der Veer September 24, 2012

    Hi Ken

    Thanks for replying, much appreciated 🙂
    So, it looks like as though we’re stuck with the basic FAA lay out then ?
    Oh well, it does look nice enough, even on a mobile. But then again, to blend it a little more with your theme, one has to do some adjustments. And to be honest, I’m not that much of a coder….
    I really like the way your site is showing up on my iPhone. If I pinch and zoom, I can still place an order and the images are still crisp. (love your art by the way, very colorful)

    I decided to look into the discussions going on at FAA and there I read, that FAA is busy working on an iPhone app. Now that would be great 🙂

    If you don’t mind, I’ll borrow your idea and link to the basic page on FAA. The iFrame I’m using right now, gives me headaches too 😉 Pretty cool, that you managed to get rid of the header, by the way.

    Thanks again Ken and if I hear anything about the iPhone app, I’ll let you know!

    Kind regards,

    Edwin

  • Edwin van der Veer September 25, 2012

    Update!

    Hi Ken,

    Hope you don’t mind me stalking you 😉
    Yesterday I tried something different for a shop page.
    I decided to take one (the biggest I could get) of the FAA widgets, that are free to download and placed that on the shop page. (www.imofx.com/shop)
    Next to the image I wrote some text on how to use the image and placed a link right beside it. The image then redirects to that particular image on FAA and the link that I provided, links to all of the images I uploaded on FAA.

    Now when you visit that page on let’s say an iPhone, the image shows up first with the text right below. Formatting is still intact.
    The only thing I noticed is when visiting that page on an iPad in portrait mode, formatting is something left to be desired. Working on that 😉

    Kind regards,

    Edwin

  • Ken Powers September 25, 2012

    No problem Edwin! I’m happy to hear any new ideas about how to integrate it all. I like what you have done. It appears the widget is responsive as well. I will have to do a bit more investigating. I really would like to have the print galleries represented for easy navigation like the artistwebsites have but I don’t want the header and artistwebsite navigation. Unfortunately, those pages aren’t responsive so I don’t know what I will end up doing. Your approach is definitely a much cleaner way to go so I will have to think about that.

    Thanks for the ideas!

  • lifequotespictures.net October 10, 2013

    You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but
    I find this topic tto be actually somethjing that I think I would never understand.
    It seems too complex and very broad for me.

    I’m looking forward for your next post, I will try to get the hang of it!

    • Ken Powers October 12, 2013

      It is definitely a complicated topic. Luckily, if your website is constructed using a commonly available framework such as WordPress, there are many themes available that can automatically facilitate a mobile friendly website.

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