The world has gone mobile. But you knew that.
Not long ago, people had to use a desktop computer with its sizable monitor if they wanted to have a productive and satisfying online experience. Then we figured out how to enable the same type of interaction on more compact laptop computers, creating the beginnings of mobility in the process. From there, we set our sights on tablets and smartphones, and truly set users free to navigate the internet and visit websites from wherever they are.
Or, at least, that’s the goal.
In some cases today, users are trying to have a mobile experience on a website that’s not designed for it. The result? Irritation, frustration—and if a business doesn’t address the situation—customers and potential customers taking their business elsewhere.
That’s why adopting a mobile-first attitude regarding your website is crucial. Simply enabling visitors to access and navigate it reasonably well isn’t enough. You’ve got to update your existing website or create your brand new site in a way that makes it easy and intuitive for people to find what they need and enjoy their visit.
What Is Mobile-First Design?
Mobile-first web design is an approach in which user experience designers start by envisioning a website as it will be displayed on smartphones and other mobile devices. In doing so, they employ strategies that will streamline navigation. For example, they seek to minimize the amount of scrolling, zooming, and panning left or right that users will have to do.
They also work to optimize the size of the text and images displayed, while also making elements like buttons easy to use. It’s a balancing act, of course, as there’s only so much “real estate” to work with. The good news is that once you’ve created a positive user experience on the smallest of devices, you can be confident that it will be equally rewarding on larger screens.
Theoretically, once the team executes the intended user experience on a mobile device, scaling up to larger screens is a lot easier. The push to mobile first is backed by the significant year-over-year increase in mobile visitors to websites due to the increasing usage of mobile devices by the general public.
What Is Response Design?
A companion concept to mobile-first design is what’s called responsive design. The goal of responsive design is to enable a website to scale gracefully from small mobile devices to large monitors and everything in between.
This ability is vital since users will be accessing your site from a wide variety of devices. This fact is, perhaps, driven home most clearly in a situation like a business meeting where the presenter is navigating a website on their laptop even as one attendee calls up the site on their tablet so they can do their own poking around and another does the same on their smartphone. If any of them says, “I can’t find what you’re showing us,” that’s a serious problem.
Successfully executed responsive design makes sure that doesn’t happen. Along with traditional devices such as smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktops, users are increasingly surfing the web on devices such as smart televisions and watches.
5 Benefits of Mobile-First and Responsive Web Design
Beyond the high-level benefit of creating a positive user experience with mobile-first and responsive design, there are several other advantages—both for website users and the companies that are looking to attract and engage them.
- A seamless, uninterrupted interaction. As every marketing and sales professional knows, potential customers are easily distracted. One minute a website visitor seems destined to make a purchase and the next they’re pulled away by some competing priority, never to return. The stats on items abandoned in online “shopping carts” are just one measure of this reality. And, no doubt, being confused or frustrated by poor website design is a major cause of visitors turning their attention to other matters or simply having a change of heart about their purchase. Effective website design ensures that people can go from interest to purchase quickly and efficiently.
- Simplified website maintenance. It is possible to meet the needs of users on different types of devices by having different versions of your website (i.e., desktop and mobile versions), but that’s a very time- and resource-intensive method. Having one website that automatically resizes and reconfigures itself for any size screen is really the only sustainable approach.
- Cost savings. It’s a cliche but it’s true: Time is money. The time you save by having one responsive, mobile-first website translates into significant dollars and cents over time.
- Enhanced SEO (search engine optimization) and higher revenue. A positive user experience does more than make consumers happy—it makes search engines happy, too. When visitors are getting what they want from your site they stay longer, and when they stay longer, search engines see your site and content as more valuable and give the site a higher ranking. And, of course, a higher ranking means more visitors and more visitors means more sales. So, an effective web design can actually generate more revenue for your company.
- Positive reputation. Website visitors may not know what mobile-first development and responsive design are, but when they have a positive experience on your website as compared to that of your competitor, they know at some level that you’re more focused on their needs than that other business. And, good news travels fast!
The use of mobile devices to access the internet surpassed the use of desktop computers in 2016 and the trend toward smartphones and tablets as the primary tools for researching and purchasing products and services surely will continue. Is your mobile strategy keeping up?
Mobile-First Websites are Not Mobile Apps
It’s important to note that mobile-first websites are not mobile apps. Every business needs a mobile-first website for the reasons noted above. But mobile apps aren’t necessary unless users need to have a specific type of functionality on their phones for some reason.
In other words, if your website is sufficiently mobile-friendly, you probably don’t need a mobile app. Users can simply access your site on their mobile device and take actions or complete tasks there.
Tips for “Going Mobile”
As you think about how to create an engaging mobile experience for your customers and prospects, keep these tips in mind:
- Prioritize your content. To minimize the amount of navigating users have to do, be sure you understand what they’re most interested in and keep that information or those actions “front and center” as much as possible.
- View navigation like a visitor. Getting from your homepage to another area of your website is second nature to you. But a website visitor (especially a first-time visitor) doesn’t have your knowledge. Try to step back and view things like they would when you’re designing your site layout and navigation.
- Thoroughly test your website. If you work with web development experts like MarkedQuery, we do comprehensive testing on every type of device that might be used to access your website. If you’re moving to a mobile-first approach on your own, it’s important to do the same. Assuming that because your website functions as designed on one type of smartphone it will work well on all smartphones can come back to haunt you when you learn that’s not the case.
The world has gone mobile. Be sure that your business isn’t standing still!