Mobile-First Design: Everything You Should to Know About

Alex Danchenko

There are more and more search requests through mobile every day. Since 2018, Google is giving up priority to indexing to those sites adapted for mobile devices. In addition, with the development of mobile technology, users increasingly prefer to search on their phones than turn on the computer. Therefore, your brand can start growing through first-mobile design. Let's see why.

We will learn what mobile-first  design is and how it differs from optimized and adapted. Also, we will get acquainted with the basic strategies and principles and review best practices of mobile-first design examples. Let’s discuss whether this approach is necessary for your business.

What is Mobile-First Design?

Mobile-first design is the design of the future site, which begins with the creation of layouts and prototyping for small screens of mobile devices. That is, UI/UX development is focused on smartphones or tablets. The name “Mobile First” suggests that this design will eventually scale to laptop or desktop screens.

The mobile-first approach is that the initial website consists of priority elements for interaction and content. After that, adaptations are created for each device with a unique interface for specific devices and channels. 

Mobile-first design is important because, according to Statista, over 50% of the world's web traffic is mobile. Therefore, your business must adapt to new realities. The mobile-first  design is essential for industrial-scale enterprises and the target customer segment. You must meet user expectations on any device.

Mobile first design examples

Why Mobile-First Design Is Helpful for Your Business

First of all, you should be focused on your target audience. If users are likely to use mobile devices to interact with your brand, it is worth resorting to mobile-first development. Here are a few points to help you navigate and make a decision.

  • The type of your business (what is your product or service). Research exactly how customers interact with you. Mobile-first should be your optimization strategy if you offer video or movie screenings, publish news, sell digital products, sell consumer goods, or develop software.
  • Demographic information. Simply put, you need to know your audience: age, employment, and hobbies. How many users make purchases through the phone, that is, it determines the age and preferences of mobile buyers.
  • Location. The level of use of smartphones by the population of each country is individual. In developed countries such as the USA, Great Britain, France, Germany, and so on, smartphones are used by at least 70% of people. That is, if your target audience lives in regions with high use of mobile phones, then the conclusion is obvious that they will search for you through it.

Mobile-First vs Mobile-Optimized vs Responsive Design: Understanding the Difference

At first glance, the mobile-first design definition may seem like the twin of optimized or responsive designs. The only similarity is that they help the website look good on smartphones or tablets. However, the mobile-first design definition is about making the website user-friendly for smartphones and desktops. That is, they could quickly find what they need by accessing your site from a phone. Therefore, the interface should be simple in navigation, concise in text and functionality, and minimal in terms of empty borders.

If sites can adjust from widescreen monitors to the thinnest smartphone, then they've been made in responsive design. It adapts to any width once you start modifying  your browser. To achieve this flexibility, designers and layout coders do a lot of work, so responsive design is quite an expensive service.

Mobile-friendly is designed more as a companion to the main desktop site. This is the option most often chosen by companies. This may meet the company's needs, but not its users' needs , which risks falling behind competitors.

Mobile-First Design vs Responsive: Which is Better?

Most likely, you have an additional question: Which design should I choose? First, it’s up to you what is suitable for the current needs. It all depends on your business, what budget is planned, and what goal you are pursuing when selecting mobile app design. But do not think that you will save on first-mobile design or that designing it is much easier than the rest. Maintaining an intuitive interface and placing a graphical offer of products or services is difficult. 

Benefits of Mobile-First Design

Improved User Experience

Your site will always display correctly on a mobile device if it was originally designed for it. This, in turn, is convenient for the user, as it is easy to navigate on a well-designed interface. Additional features are added as the scale increases. Mobile-first development strategy focuses on the project's purpose, and content is prioritized by important information or product that the user requires right now.

Attract customers and increase conversions

Have you heard the expression, “You have no business if you are not on the Internet”? If your brand cannot be “googled” and found through a mobile browser, then it is unlikely they will know about you. Having a site today, you can lose its position in the search results without having a mobile version. Google algorithms now work this way by indexing sites with  an adapted or mobile version. 

Mobile-first design strategy gives a positive experience for users who will come back to you again. Nothing is worse than searching for information on the phone and finding yourself on a crooked and complicated site. At best, the user will close your site, and at worst, they will write an angry review.

Stay relevant in the mobile world

Have you noticed that smartphones are now as powerful as the average computer? This suggests that the development of mobile technologies does not stand still. Therefore, the importance of mobile-first web design can be key to a business. A laconic design for a small screen will remain in trend for a long time. You don't have to compress your desktop site and resort to endless front-end fixes.

Mobile first design is important because

Fast and convenient

Since the phone is always at hand, users are accustomed to finding answers quickly. Mobile-first design principles have two critical parts: speed and convenience. This means your mobile site should load quickly, be clear, and be easy to understand. This applies to any business niche, whether it be stock market reports or the sale of vacuum cleaners.

Still doubting that the speed of the mobile version of the site could be of better importance? Here are some numbers that should convince you otherwise. One second is enough for the conversion to drop by 7% and page views to decrease by 11%. How to design mobile-first to prevent such a mistake? Refrain from overloading the page with banner ads, cumbersome visuals, pop-ups, etc.

How to Implement a Mobile-First Approach: Methods + Strategies

How to make mobile-first design convenient for everyone? You must build a digital strategy by collecting user data through tracking and behavior. Analytics tools help you segment your customers by location, operating system type, and preferred browser. For example, the data might include the following:

  • Session duration, number of openings and closings, and engagement rate.
  • Clicks show which elements are selected more often when navigating through the application.
  • The degree of scrolling shows exactly where users linger and what they ignore.
  • What payment method the client chooses, the frequency of purchases, the execution of an application, and the choice of a product or service in favorites?
  • Comparative analysis of a specific client with the current and last session.

Why should you analyze a mobile site? Because it helps to create a design that will be personalized for your clients. You will know exactly what targeted offers will encourage regular customers to buy. What promotional offers or discounts motivate those customers who came for the first time to purchase  the product?

Engage and Retain Customers

If your site's mobile loading speed is fast and your design is well thought out, start using digital channels to interact with your users. Meet customers through live chats, personalized messages, and email. Show that you are also on social networks and instant messengers. Perhaps they like to make purchases through such platforms and will advertise your brand with a link to your resource.

Do not forget about support. Customers should know they can get advice on a question of interest to them. Connect a chatbot that answers popular questions. Also, in a marketing strategy to increase customer loyalty, it is recommended to introduce various rewards or test surveys.

Mobile Design Principles

  • Competitor analysis will help determine the future vision, the availability of options, and the number of elements. It is also worth considering that users came to you to solve their problems. Find interaction pain points and provide solutions quickly and efficiently.
  • Content hierarchy. Content should be informative and short. The user should not be distracted by third-party advertising but remain focused throughout the journey: from entry to order. The visual hierarchy should intuitively prompt the user about important and minor elements.
  • Be simple. Content clarity is achieved through the simplicity of first-mobile design. The user is focused on the important and is not distracted by the endless links of the user menu, the constant transition to other pages, and small non-taped infographics.
  • Call to action. Call-to-actions should encourage lightning-fast conversions. Your CTA should be bright, bold, and placed in the right places. Remember that not only do the words play an essential role, but also the color that catches the eye and overall design. 

Mobile design process

  • Check existing content. Create a table of elements and future pages to be included in the mobile design. This method will group the content and give a clearer understanding of what should be excluded.
  • Select a priority hierarchy. You already have a table with future content. Now prioritize what should be displayed as necessary to the user. Consider the size of objects, such as buttons and other touchpoints. These objects should be larger than the ones for the desktop version for easy finger pressing.  
  • Guidance is not needed. Keep the design simple with wide borders and a large, legible type. This way, users won't need any guide or help to navigate your site.
  • Do not use large graphics. Multi-pixel images are poorly displayed and viewed. The small screen is simply incapable of showing them properly and interferes with the user experience in infinite scrolling. Images should be bright and optimized for mobile devices. Choose color schemes for graphics with contrast. 
  • Testing on a real device. Even if the design was done according to all the rules of mobile design, it is worth checking it on a real phone. You can do this or collect a control group for a more detailed analysis.

Great Examples of Mobile-First Design

From theory to beauty. See examples of well-known brands that have applied mobile-first design best practices, clearly defined goals, and organized functionality.

Google Maps

What is special about mobile Google Maps is that they are no different from the application interface. Apart from the identity, the mobile site's loading speed is the same as the app's.

Mobile first design best practices

Shutterfly 

A service for creating photo albums, postcards, notebooks, and similar products, decided to create a mobile site. This is because users began to take more pictures with their smartphones and upload photos from the phone gallery. Even if you have never used this resource, it will not be difficult. The category top bar is fingertip-height, promotions are CTA-style, and products to order are large buttons.

Etsy

Mobile E-commerce site for vintage and craft sellers, provides buying and selling services. Visitors do only one action: either they are looking for a specific product or they are looking for a product in a particular category.

BuzzFeed

BuzzFeed is a resource full of entertaining content and fun quizzes. The company's marketers immediately realized that their viral jokes and memes entertain users on the way to work, waiting in line, or just when there is time. The mobile website is convenient for the user interested in a particular category. And the category page has its block of categories and filters.

Importance of mobile first web design

Airbnb

Those who created this popular search and rental service knew how to meet users' needs. They have organized the mobile site so that it remains intuitive despite a large number of options. As a motivation to make a booking, they post tabbed photos of attractive places near the rental property.

Lego

Lego is the most famous constructor in the world, not only for children but for adults too. The site for mobile takes into account the age needs of users. Surprisingly, marketers have balanced the requirements of the target audience, and it is easy to use for both schoolchildren and pensioners.

Final Thoughts

Now, you've learned that a site with a mobile-first design can dramatically change how a business is promoted. Increasingly, users are searching for a particular brand through mobile search engines. To accurately decide whether you need to apply mobile-first design philosophy, you need to research and get a digital strategy: age group, industry, needs, and buying behavior.

Statistics show that today having a mobile site is not just an addition but a necessity to get and keep a leading position in SERPs. You cannot treat your site with disdain, as you risk losing your audience, and it will take a lot of time and effort to return it. If you are sure that the target audience is interested in your services through mobile browsers, then you should start developing your future website with the first-mobile design.

Kseniia Petrina

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October 24, 2022

Alex Danchenko

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November 11, 2022

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