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Why Mobile-First Website Design is Critical

Chances are you are reading this on a mobile device. 

Despite the tremendous growth in mobile devices, many designers and developers are still designing for desktop computers or big screens on their desks, rather than for the tablet or phone you may be holding in your hand. 

But along with a better experience for your customer, Mobile-First design matters for making it in the Google rankings. Google now ranks the mobile version of a website first. Mobile-first indexing means that Google uses the mobile version of the page for indexing and ranking, to better help – primarily mobile – users find what they’re looking for. Just think about this: How many Google searches do you do on your phone each day? Mobile-first design helps you make the most of that potential. 

What is mobile-first design?

Mobile-first design is a design strategy that says when you create a website or app, you start by designing and prototyping the smallest screen first and work your way up to larger screens. In essence, it’s about delivering the right user experience to the right device.

The purpose of Mobile-first is to prioritize the most important aspects of the website, the content and the navigation for a smaller screen.

Mobile-first design goes beyond the aesthetics and also applies to the content and SEO of your website, as well as technical considerations like download speed. Your whole design and layout are based on providing excellent mobile user-experience: fast download speeds, rich media content to keep your target audience interested and easy touchscreen navigation. 

Users get the information they need quicker. This will also make your life easier since Mobile-first design starts off with the hardest screen size to design for. The rest inevitably falls beautifully into place.

When you take a Mobile-first design approach, you focus and maintain clarity by removing any unnecessary user interface decoration. By removing distractions, you improve and streamline the user experience and that makes good business sense.

Mobile-first is content first

Content becomes the priority in Mobile-first design. This design creates a hierarchy of content users need, use and appreciate. Designing with restrictions and limitations forces the user experience designer to remove unnecessary elements and focus on the essential. 

The mobile user visiting your site sometimes has different needs than your typical desktop user. Sometimes, but not always, a desktop user may be looking for more in-depth information or additional features that are more difficult to render on mobile. 

On a traditional desktop website, you are more likely to see white space as opposed to collapsible menus and widgets that are more prominent in mobile sites. This includes photos where you will experience full-size images on a desktop versus smaller images on mobile.

Google Analytics Mobile Visitors - Digital Giants

If more than 60% of your traffic is mobile, adapting your visual display and navigation for mobile screen size and touch-screen interaction makes sense – for your users and for your bottom line. You can easily find this data in your Google Analytics account under “Audience” > “Mobile” > “Overview”.

What is the difference between responsive web design versus Mobile-first design

These concepts can sometimes lead to confusion; some people think they are one and the same when they are entirely different.

Responsive Design starts with the desktop. You start at the maximum required resolution and then scale down to the smallest screen. Although the content and layout will adjust to fit smartphones and tablets, the navigation, content and download speeds are geared more for your traditional website.

Mobile Web Design Best Practices

Our Mobile-first approach includes all of these key characteristics:

Screen Size

The practice of coding websites so that they adjust, adapt and respond to the device. The design process starts with the phone and grows in scope for the desktop monitor size.  The previous approach was to adapt as the screen size to shrink to the lowest common denominator, the mobile phone screen.  

For most organizations, the lowest common denominator is actually the most common screen size.  

Speed

Your website speed is a priority for any type of design, Google and people using the Internet prefer fast-loading sites, as demonstrated by this Think with Google research:

When designing for mobile, we need to keep in mind that the device in your hand does not have the same processing ability and speed of a laptop/desktop. Wireless data speeds are typically slower.  

Navigation

For mobile devices, navigation must be both compact and expandable. Fewer clicks or taps onscreen to get from the home or landing page to the content you want is even more important.  In this environment, there needs to be adequate separation of navigation elements and you must avoid large header menus.  

Other navigation tips to consider:

  • Reduce the number of pages on your site
  • Add an improved search feature so users can still find what they need
  • Increase white space to reduce the appearance of clutter
  • Use clean lines and wide borders
  • Use a simple font and make it larger
  • Keep a maximum of two columns on mobile

Architecture

The mobile experience now is enhanced with the ability to quickly scroll vs. clicking on links to move from content to content topic on desktop. Good site architecture often evolves around related content topics, stacked within a page, accessible both by links within the page (anchor links) as well as continued scrolling to slide from one sub-topic to another.

Your calls to action are useless if they aren’t designed with mobile in mind –and that means you are missing out on leads and sales. Solution: Stop throwing money down the drain. Make sure your CTA is designed Mobile-first, too. Test links and considers using mobile-friendly calls to action such as SMS text messaging and live chat.

Content

Content is the primary reason why your website viewers are coming to you. Users are becoming more and more comfortable reading, viewing images and watching videos on a mobile phone. Your content needs to be adapted for the smaller screen. 

Branding

With smaller screen sizes, your branding must be minimized in size, yet remain consistent but never compromised. When designing, ensure your brand is strong, your company’s purpose is obvious, and it does not interfere with users’ access to the content they want.

Take the Lead

Mobile-first web design takes us full circle to when we had to think harder and prioritize what to put on the screen and in what order.  Getting Mobile-first right will significantly improve your brand perception and your mobile website user engagement. Those mean a more positive customer experience, more interaction and more business.

So here’s the question – is your website mobile friendly? Contact us for a FREE no-obligation audit of your website and we’ll let you know how mobile-friendly it is.