With over half the population using mobile devices to access the internet in today’s world, it seems like perfect sense to make your website friendly to mobile users. Many of these users are – you guessed it – using only their phones! This percentage of mobile users is expected to jump to approximately 72% by the year 2025, and Google recognizes this too. So, if you aren’t designing your website for the mobile user FIRST, you’re in for a bumpy ride. Mobile-first design is not only a great strategy to keep in mind when designing your site, but it is quickly becoming the gold standard.
What is mobile-first web design?
Mobile-first is a design philosophy that embraces forward-thinking to the future state of how we as a society use the internet. It aims to create great experiences when users are on smaller screens such as their mobile phones. Designing your website to cater to these mobile users before adding elements for desktop interaction will ensure that your audience has a seamless experience, even if they choose to hop on over to their desktop or laptop, and vice versa.
The importance of designing your site for mobile-first:
When you design your mobile site first, you are forced to determine the most important aspects of your site since you have limited screen real estate and often, limited mobile data. You are forced to recognize the core elements that your users would be confused without, and you can build your exceptional customer experience around your key features. Later on, you will be able to add additional design elements that are only visible to desktop users, but are much less important to overall usability.
With mobile-first design, you end up putting your “best” content first, and that is exactly what both users AND search engines are looking for. Google, for example, favors mobile-friendliness, and that turns right into increased discoverability in organic search results.
Accessibility is a big deal, and mobile-first design rocks the accessibility.
This may seem a bit backwards, but designing for mobile often assists with visibility for those who may be visually impaired. How, you ask? Well, by limiting the elements that can fit on the mobile screen, you automatically provide enough space on your desktop version for those who may use screen readers or magnifiers. This means your viewers can zoom-in like crazy and still offer a great experience for those who may need the enlarged text.
Mobile-first also means content first, which also creates accessibility for those who may not as easily be able to scroll through a page to find the most important elements! Front-and-center content is a win-win.
Simplify your mobile navigation
This is where your simplified navigation comes in. You’ve heard of the ‘hamburger’ menu, right? Well, sole use of this comes with a little caveat, and that is reduced user engagement – so your best bet is to use combined navigation practices. Combined navigation is a mix of the hamburger menu for secondary information and key navigational tabs with easily recognizable icons (or text) that are still very visible and accessible. For example: “shop now”, a cart icon, and a home icon may be important for your ecommerce site, while the hamburger menu can contain account settings, past orders and other less immediate elements. Go ahead and show your users what is most important, and they will likely agree.
And speaking of keeping it simple – you never want to get in your users’ way. What that means is: if you’re thinking of using pop-ups, think again. No. One. Likes. Pop-ups. Not even robots. Calls to action are fine and dandy, but we recommend keeping them unobtrusive, relevant to the page content, and in-line with your article – preferably below the fold.
Mobile-first is great for SEO
Back in 2016, Google announced that they would be making alterations to their algorithm that would benefit sites with a great mobile experience.
“To make our results more useful, we’ve begun experiments to make our index mobile-first. Although our search index will continue to be a single index of websites and apps, our algorithms will eventually primarily use the mobile version of a site’s content to rank pages from that site, to understand structured data, and to show snippets from those pages in our results. Of course, while our index will be built from mobile documents, we’re going to continue to build a great search experience for all users, whether they come from mobile or desktop devices.”
Mobile-first indexing is exactly what it sounds like. Until some crazy new technology comes about, Google will consider the mobile version of your site first to rank it in their search results. The good news is that if you have your site optimized for mobile (and of course offer high-quality, informative and relevant content), you’ll rank well on both mobile and desktop.
Always keep your users in mind before all else
The most important part to remember when designing a site is who will be reading it. Keep in mind that the majority of users are reading on mobile, and that majority is only growing; people want fast, easy, and relevant; and no one likes to be interrupted by pop-ups. When you have all of these down to a science, the traffic will follow.
At CommonPlaces, we continually keep up with the gold standard of web development, and mobile-first design is no exception. Give us a shout to get started.