The leap from mobile-friendly to mobile-first
The leap from mobile-friendly to mobile-first

By on in Design & Experience, Tech & Trends

The leap from mobile-friendly to mobile-first

In sad news for web designers (and marketers who want to put everything on their home pages), mobile web access is now officially beating desktop by 2 to 1.

For some of our clients, the ratio is more like 100 to 1 in favor of mobile. However, there are some holdouts—generally B2B, education, science, and tech brands—where access remains heavily in the hands of desktop users (or, perhaps more likely, users who switch back and forth).


It’s not enough to have information intuitively sorted in the nav. Flows have to go beyond logical organization to support and encourage desired user journeys.


As with everything, national stats don’t really matter if your analytics tell a different story. So that’s the best place to start. Find out how people are coming to your site. Then, as you see mobile use creeping up or taking over, flip your digital priorities. Keep in mind, if your current site provides a terrible mobile experience, you may be unintentionally skewing the results against mobile, as phone users won’t return.


Don’t just squeeze the screen

It can be hard to get your head around designing for mobile first. The reduced real estate definitely limits what you can do. Perhaps that’s why if you go hunting for DIY web templates, they’re all still showcasing landscape-oriented desktop designs. Look closely, however, and you’ll see that the designs are much simpler than they would have been five years ago. That’s the effect of mobile—after all, very few people are likely to see those sites in all their giant-sized glory.

So how do you get a mobile site right?


Focus on the user’s tasks.

You should be starting here anyway, but mobile doesn’t leave any margin for error. What does the user want to accomplish? Expect to see? Need in order to move forward? It’s not enough to have information intuitively sorted in the nav. Flows have to go beyond logical organization to support and encourage desired user journeys.


Simplify mercilessly.

Extra words. Extra form fields. Meaningless stock imagery. Links that don’t matter to your audiences. Get rid of all of it. I’m not saying you shouldn’t paint a picture—instead, make sure everything on the page works very, very hard to achieve a single goal.

Don’t imagine that making things tiny will allow you to cram more into a view. People use their thumbs to navigate, so forcing them to expand your page to accurately tap links undercuts the experience you tried to create. And, if your audience is over 40, they’ll be annoyed by tiny, hard-to-read type.


Split up your content.

People are used to scrolling, so asking them to work their way down a page is okay. But that doesn’t mean you should take advantage of their goodwill. Separate your pages or add on-page links to reduce friction for users. And don’t assume that they’ll continue to the bottom of a list to see your call to action.


Test your navigation with real people.

Not only the names in the nav bar, but button text, “next” options, all of it. Assume nothing—recently, we’ve been surprised by how few users recognize the meaning of a hamburger menu icon. General names don’t help users or search engines, and clever nav names may win internally, but it won’t help your targets. Be informative and brief.


Make sure the brand sings.

With so little on a view, clear, consistent branding remains absolutely critical. You do want people to remember where they saw whatever impressed them.


Bottom line, mobile websites and apps—as with all channels and initiatives—serve users and marketers best when they start with the audience. Let us help you get closer to your targets. Start with a quick chat with FATFREE.