Recent estimates indicate that at least 51% of mobile users access the internet only using their smartphones. By 2025, experts say that number could be over 72%. It is this trend toward mobile internet access that has designers (and business owners) focused on mobile-first web design. Mobile-first is not a new idea.
For several years designers and developers have been focusing on mobile—particularly apps, but also mobile-friendly websites. Yet many business websites are still living in a desktop environment, unprepared to meet their customers where they are: on their mobile devices. There are many ways to update your website. Here’s why we love designing mobile-first.
Mobile-first web design is a strategy that focuses on designing your website starting with the smallest screen. This means designing user-experience on a mobile device before adjusting the design for tablets and desktop. The goal of mobile-first is to create the optimal user experience for each unique device.
This approach differs from traditional web design, which focused on desktop design as the priority. As more and more users access the internet from their mobile devices—and in many cases, only their mobile devices—creating a better user experience on mobile is essential.
Mobile-first differs from other mobile-friendly design methods, such as responsive design. With responsive design, a web page is designed for desktop first. The elements of the website simply adjust automatically to the screen size of any device.
While responsive design is an important part of web development and design, mobile-first allows us to take a more specific approach to the experience your users have with your website from their phones.
Your website has several purposes depending on your business or the services you offer. But for most business owners, these common website goals exist: lead generation, conversions, and ranking on search engines.
Mobile-first web design allows you to achieve all three. Since the middle of 2019, Google has prioritized mobile-first indexing. As Googlebot crawls the web, it will use the mobile version of your website content to index and rank your site.
This is a huge transition for web owners whose sites are only optimized for desktop. Google’s decision to use mobile-first indexing stems from the data: most users are accessing Google Search from a mobile device. Does this mean your website is obsolete? Absolutely not! Google continues to show the URL that is “most appropriate to users (whether it’s a desktop or mobile URL).” It does mean, however, that optimizing your site for mobile—and especially taking a mobile-first approach—will improve your ranking and ability to generate leads.
Google’s indexing change isn’t the only reason design strategies are shifting to mobile-first, however. According to Statista, in 2019, 46% of online retail purchases came from smartphones, breaking even with desktop purchases. A growing number of internet users are opting to make purchases straight from their smartphones. But is your website prepared to convert mobile visitors into customers?
Data continues to show us that users will turn away from sites that don’t load quickly enough on their smartphones. In fact, 40% of users will give up on a page that doesn’t load within 2 seconds. Websites designed for mobile-first, however, are designed to load quickly and effectively guide leads through the sales process smoothly and easily.
Mobile-first design uses specific techniques to achieve the best possible user experience for your website visitors. A well-designed mobile-first site will utilize these elements to ensure your website is meeting your customers’ needs.
- Minimal Content
Content is one of the most important elements of your site. It’s how you communicate with your audience about what you offer and how to purchase it.
With mobile-first design, the first step is to prioritize your content and decide what needs to be communicated to your audience. To keep your reader engaged on a small screen, it is best to keep copy clear and concise.
- Clear Call to Action
On a computer, your visitors have room to see, scan, and understand a large amount of information. Your call to action can appear in multiple locations and a variety of shapes and sizes.
On a smartphone screen, however, there is less room for content and tactics that lead your visitor to eventually click on a button. The goal with mobile-first is to create clear CTA’s that don’t require much explanation or wordy content. Buttons should also be designed much like they would for an app—easy to tap or swipe with your finger.
- Attention-Grabbing Graphics
Much like your CTA buttons, graphics on a mobile-first website should be clear, clean, and easy to interpret. Ultimately, they need to grab the attention of the user. Many mobile-first sites will even use graphically-inspired buttons as clickable menu items to help guide users through the site.
- Simple Design
Whether you choose to use more graphics or written content on your site, the key is keeping it simple. Mobile-first sites will utilize fewer columns, simple fonts, and clean lines. Increasing white space will also reduce clutter and confusion, ensuring the site is easy to navigate. Eliminate complex tools such as hover over options that are difficult to access on a smartphone. Save the more stylized options for your desktop site and increase usability with a simple mobile-first approach.
- Optimize Images
One strategy for keeping your site speed up is to make sure your photos are optimized for mobile. Mobile-first takes this into account from the first iteration of the design. Optimizing your images means making sure they are the correct dimensions for each device (starting with mobile, of course). This helps increase load speed on smartphones. Consider using lossless compression so you don’t lose any image quality, and upload images in the JPEG format rather than heftier file types.