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Is breaking established web conventions in order to be consistent across multiple devices an unexpected (and therefore harmful) user experience?

I’ve always advocated consistency in content when designing across multiple platforms, especially given the advent of responsive design and mobile first etc... However, an e-commerce site that I’m currently working with might present a bit of an exception to the rule.

The site in question has a much higher ‘items-per-order’ rate on desktop than it does on mobile.

We’ve found that mobile visitors have much shorter visit durations, and are also far more likely to just buy a single product; presumably because they’re looking for a specific product after seeing an advertisement.

Both the desktop and mobile sites currently use ‘add to basket’ as the product page call to action. I find that ‘add to basket’ communicates less urgency than ‘buy now’, and therefore encourages ongoing shopping by reinforcing the concept of a basket and it's non-committal nature.

My thinking is to test ‘buy now’ as the button terminology specifically on the mobile site, as we know from previous research that users are more likely to only purchase a specific product in a mobile context. The desktop site would retain ‘add to basket’.

By presenting mobile users with a more urgent call to action, my thinking is that it should encourage a higher conversion rate on product pages.

My question is: Does this logic make sense? Should I be prioritising cross-platform consistency by having the same terminology and calls to action, or changing content between platforms to try and encourage higher conversion rates in a specific context?

If anyone has any experience or research they can share in cross-channel e-commerce that might help, It’d be much appreciated. Cheers! :-)

Edit: I suppose this question could extend to navigation too. If we knew that mobile users had particularly different browsing habits on mobile, is it better to retain consistency to encourage learning / ease-of-use across platforms? Or should we optimise for that specific context regardless of any implications in cross-channel consistency?

  • But, in essence, the concept will still remain the same? Clicking "Buy now" will still only add the item to the basket? If the semantics are the same between platforms then I think they should be communicated in the same way also. Oct 10, 2012 at 11:11
  • I added the e-commerce tag since I think it's likely to have an impact on the answers. Your priorities are likely to be different for e-commerce, so the solution may not be the same as that for other types of site.
    – kastark
    Oct 10, 2012 at 11:42

1 Answer 1


There is a trend towards "sequential multi-screening", whereby users begin a task on one device, such as a mobile phone, and complete later on a second device, such as a desktop computer. This behaviour has been observed in online shopping. Google produced an interesting report on this research (there's a link to the full research at the end of that article)..

Bearing this in mind, it is important that we make the transition between devices as seamless as possible. While some differences are inevitable due to the different constraints of each device and other differences may be desirable in order to deliver the most appropriate experience in each context, it would be sensible to ensure consistency where possible.

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