Well, you probably have heard of mobile responsiveness when it comes to websites. It just means a website is built for desktop browsers but will transform gracefully for mobile devices. That’s great, and it has a wealth of benefits. Some of those benefits are the same as the ones I’ll talk about below – but with mobile first, they’re amped up.
So let’s get down to it. What is mobile first? It’s simply designing and building a website for the mobile/smaller screens first that then transforms gracefully for desktop sizes.
There. We’ve covered the basics.
I’ll give you a broad answer to start with. More people search with their mobile devices than they do with desktop devices. A figure I heard a lot last year was around 60% of Google searches were performed on mobile devices. That trend is only going to increase. With any website, regardless of its purpose, you want to target as many people as you can to spread your message to those that are looking for it.
Now I’ll cover some more specific reason, other than “mobile first is good”.
I wrote an article fairly recently about minimalism in web design. The overall topic isn’t what I’m after here though.
A recommendation I made in that article is to strip everything away that isn’t necessary. You should be left with some navigation, titles, and content (in whatever form that takes). That article then focused on building the design back up. Here though, by stripping everything away you should be able to easily identify what is crucial to the success of the page.
When you’ve got your “mobile first” thinking cap on you realise you don’t have a ton of screen real estate to work with.
It forces you to think more carefully about what you decide to have on the page. You don’t want lots of erroneous information (that doesn’t help you achieve your goals/success) getting in the way of the really important stuff.
That means your pages become more focused. You’re much more likely to achieve your goals if your efforts are focused.
Think about what’s crucial to the message you’re trying to get across to visitors. Focus on that, and remove everything else. Your pages will likely load a little faster. Plus your message will reach the visitor much more clearly.
A visitor being confused about what you do or offer is never a good thing. On a small screen, you have to be focused to make sure you get that message across.
Search engines love mobile-first websites. Here’s an article from Web Results Direct that talks about Google switching to a mobile-first mindset, and it should be coming in 2018.
Google started to rank websites for being mobile friendly back in 2016, but the desktop version was still important. That’s changing. They, and probably other search engines too, will start ranking websites just based on the mobile versions.
It’s important that we all start thinking mobile first from here on out. Not only do the majority of people search on mobile devices, but you’ll have a better chance of ranking well and therefore getting your websites in front of people if your website is mobile first.
Mobile responsive is still great, but thinking mobile first thinking has a few extra benefits. Things like making your pages load faster so people with not-so-great connection speeds have no issue loading your site will all help. You can achieve this with mobile-first thinking.
I’ve visited just as many websites in the last few months that have great navigation as have poor navigation. Getting around a website on a mobile device can simply be more difficult. Not only do you have less screen space, but you also have to hit things with your finger.
Many websites that were created for the desktop user and then made to transform for the mobile user don’t often have navigation that’s easy for mobile users.
If a visitor lands on your web page, but the menu is enormous and difficult to navigate through, they’re more likely to not find what they were looking for and click away from your site.
Additionally, there’re things like target size to think about when it comes to menu items. Thumbs and fingers are much bigger than a mouse pointer. If a visitor has found the link in your menu they were looking for, but they have trouble hitting the link, they’re again more likely to click away from your website.
By considering how a visitor will interact with your website, you make the experience more enjoyable for them. They’re more likely to have a positive impression of your site. Plus, they’re much more likely to be able to find what they were looking for.
You don’t want to make it difficult for the visitor to find what they’re looking for. A mobile first approach can help you there.
There are many things you can track about your visitors if you want to. Although whether you should do so or not is an entirely different conversation.
Information like a visitor’s location, for example, can be acquired and can be useful depending on what you do.
However, I’m thinking of things that are genuinely more beneficial to the user’s experience of your website.
I visited a site recently that had a traditional burger menu on the left side of the screen. As well as that, they had a phone icon and an email icon displayed next to the burger menu icon. They weren’t hidden. They were easily accessible. Their size meant they were an easy target for my finger. They made it easy as pie to get in touch with them. It’s simple on a phone to click an icon like that and have the appropriate apps open ready for your communication.
Small thoughts like that take advantage of visitors being on a phone. If I was on a desktop and they had the same phone and email icons, I probably wouldn’t have an email program or phone program (like Skype) to take advantage of those details. When I checked out the desktop version of the website, they had the phone number and email address written out so I could read them instead of the icons. Perfect.
Here’s a couple of screenshots of those websites (they were from Norfolk Oak).
First the desktop version:
And now the mobile version:
Take advantage of the fact that most of your visitors will come to you from mobile devices.
Start thinking mobile first and you’re much more likely to appear higher in the search results and therefore get your message out there to more people.
More importantly, you’re much more likely to give visitors a positive experience when they come to your website. Bad website experiences can leave a sour taste in the mouth of the visitor. A positive experience can do wonders for your website’s goals.
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