Mobile Design Kills Conversions: Here’s What to Do About It


Mobile traffic has increased steadily for the past several years, overtaking desktop traffic for the first time late last year, so it’s no wonder why webmasters have scrambled to make their websites more appealing to mobile visitors. In line with the trend, Google has made it a requirement that all websites be more “mobile friendly,” ensuring that all your content loads easily and visibly on mobile devices; search optimizers know that if your site isn’t responsive, or at least compatible with mobile devices, you’re not going to have a good chance of ranking in search engines. On top of that, users will likely have a worse experience with your site overall, giving them a neutral to negative impression of your brand.

But mobile designs aren’t a completely “good” thing—in fact, there are some negative consequences that many webmasters are willfully overlooking.

Mobile Design And Conversions

If your site is optimized for mobile devices, you would expect conversions on mobile devices to be higher than on desktops; users are having a better, more optimized experience, and should be more likely to finalize their purchases. However, retail sites tend to see a whopping 270 percent gap between their mobile and desktop customers; in Q4 of 2016, for example, the average conversion rate on desktop devices was 4.14 percent, while on mobile devices, it was 1.55 percent. Tablets did slightly better, at 3.56 percent.

So what’s really going on here?

The Root Of The Problem

There are a few potential explanations for the problem. For example, customers getting acquainted with the average mobile experience may be less likely to spend money on their mobile device, since they’re used to making purchases on a desktop device. However, this accounts only for a minority of users, since a whopping 79 percent of consumers are comfortable buying things online.

Instead, the root of the problem lies with the nature of our study; we’re looking at all responsive websites to come up with these averages, and most responsive websites on mobile devices are poorly designed. It isn’t the fact that mobile traffic inherently converts less, but rather the fact that so many companies are neglecting their mobile design quality that’s the real root of the problem. If you merely take your desktop site and make it responsive, you’ll be carrying a desktop experience to mobile devices—rather than providing a new, customized mobile experience.

How To Improve Your Site

Fortunately, you can correct your responsive site to make sure it caters specifically to a mobile audience. These are some of the best ways to do it:

1. Keep Everything Short And Concise

The highest converting websites tend to be ones with short, concise content that gets to the point. On mobile devices, this feature is even more important; users have a finite amount of space, and want to get to their destination quickly. If you force them to trudge through lengthy sentences and bulky paragraphs, they’re going to have a poor experience. The goal here isn’t to provide less content, per se, but rather to provide content in short, manageable chunks that fit with a seamless mobile experience.

2. Choose New Images

Images are obviously important to the appeal of your site, but you need to be careful translating them from desktop to mobile experiences. What looks good on a desktop may become enormous and distracting on a mobile device, or cause a framing issue at different scales and sizes. Choose images specifically designed for mobile if you want to keep things tidy.

3. Make Your Site Easier To Navigate On Mobile

Hamburger menus used to be the gold standard for navigations on mobile sites, but they’re starting to fall out of style. Using tabs, dropdown menus, or progressively collapsing menus might work better. Most sites rely on their users getting to a specific, intended destination in order to convert, but if they can’t find their way there, or can’t do so conveniently, they’ll never convert.

4. Offer Alternative Options For Conversions

You can hedge your bets by making sure that your customers have multiple options for converting—some of which may even exist offsite. Onsite, you can provide more calls-to-action (and make them more prominent for mobile users). Offsite, you can submit your business to local listings and other services; for example, if you’re a restaurant that takes reservations, you can sign up for OpenTable, or if you’re a business that takes appointments, you can sign up for Yocale.

5. Get Rid Of Your Popups

Popups are in a peculiar place in the world of conversion optimization. When they work, they work well, but when they don’t work, they end up being annoying and working against you. If your popup is scaled to work well on desktop, it’s probably not going to fit mobile devices—especially considering there are hundreds of different possible scales to work with.


If you’re looking for a short summary, it’s this: mobile sites tend to get fewer conversions than desktop sites because they haven’t been designed with mobile users in mind. Adjust your targeting, improve your UI/UX, and conversions should no longer be an issue.

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* Adapted lead image: Public Domain Dedication (CC0) Public Domain, via

About the Author: Larry Alton

Larry is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship.

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