In November 2016, mobile web usage overtook desktop internet requests for the first time. Since then, users have not looked back and the trend towards mobile is continuing.
This movement has not escaped the website builders ecosystem, and the concept of mobile-first design has rapidly increased in popularity.
What is Mobile-First Website Design?
In order to uncover why more and more people are turning to this mobile-first approach, it is important to understand what it is.
Simply put, mobile first refers to building a website with smartphone and tablet users in mind as the primary users. Only once they are considered will a designer turn to desktop users.
Similar to standard website creation, mobile first can be broken down into two different categories: design and implementation.
Historically speaking, web designers have used a top-down approach, creating websites built to work on larger screens and then focusing on smaller devices.
Although there was no reason to not use this method at the time, we have now reached a point where more than one tenth of Americans are mobile-only users, with even greater numbers in other parts of the world.
When it comes to mobile devices, websites need to function very differently. Elements that look and function well on a desktop site are often unsuitable for mobile users. The luxury of high internet speeds on WiFi and connected networks are often not available to mobile users, especially those living in rural areas.
Mobile first design focuses on smartphone users, taking into consideration not only the smaller screen size but also the capability of the average mobile device and the necessity for greater compression and smaller file sizes. A mobile version of a website will often have less copy, few images, and streamlined navigation.
There are two ways to create a website from a technical standpoint that will result in a mobile-optimized experience: server-side agent detection and client-side responsive design.
A site designed with server-side detection implementation serves a different version of a website to visitors based on their device. If you use an iPhone, for example, the site you attempt to access will display a mobile version (generally signified with the prefix ‘m’) built specifically for users on the go.
It may look similar to a desktop site or it may use a completely different HTML and CSS file.
This kind of specialized technical design differs from the now-common responsive web design.
A mobile responsive site is one that uses all or most of the elements on a desktop site and simply scales them down, without necessarily reducing the size of the files it contains or the number of elements that the page with load. You can see this concept in action on this page by resizing the page bigger and smaller.
Although responsive design is easy to implement and maintains the aesthetic and flow of a desktop site, it often consumes more data than necessary, loads more slowly, and can result in negative SEO consequences.
Why Mobile-First Design Is Important
In April 2015, Google announced that their mobile search algorithm would prioritize mobile-optimized websites.
This meant that, for the first time, having a mobile-friendly website really mattered (so much so that Google, a company that is notoriously secretive about their methods, revealed it publicly) and served as one of the factors for ranking on the mobile search engine results page.
Simply put, a mobile-first website design can result in a greater number of users, a lower bounce rate, and, ultimately, greater profits — especially as the number of users who are mobile-only continues to rise and the demand for mobile media and shopping experiences increases.
Not only is mobile-first design important, it is affecting website builders more and more, too.
Taking Advantage of Mobile-First Design with Website Builders
Many modern website builders provides users a choice of how their website displays on mobile devices.
Responsive design is a common solution to mobile, but many opt for device-specific site design, like Bookmark’s mobile-optimized storefront.
This gives users full control over how a site displays when accessed from a smartphone and can even take advantage of the features of the device that are not available on desktop PCs.
These features include geolocation, camera usages, and even creating a direct link to your address and phone number, so that users can easily find you on a map and call you if they want to know more about you.
Mobile first also takes other important factors into consideration, including how people interact with their devices. Instead of clumping many links and buttons into a small area, mobile-first websites are designed for large human thumbs. They also focus on other user experience elements, like easy-to-read text and swipeable elements.
If you do opt for a mobile-first website, think outside the box, always consider your user experience, and prepare to achieve great things!
About the Author
Brandon David is the founder and creator of WebsiteBuilderInsider.com. Although he didn’t receive any formal training, he has dedicated most of his time to becoming an authority on everything web related. When not online, Brandon is most likely eating, sleeping, or doing something else to maintain his unhealthy addiction to the internet and site creation.