Roughly two billion people, or 51% of the population access the internet using only their smartphones instead of conventional computers and laptops. By 2025, experts believe this number could jump as high as 72.5%. This makes a strong argument for why you need to be designing your website primarily for mobile and smartphone users. But this doesn’t just apply to websites, apps, software, and other forms of interactive media are all changing to being more mobile-friendly.
Simply put, Mobile-First is a fairly recent design philosophy whose goal is to create better interfaces and experiences for users by optimizing your site or software for smaller mobile screens. By designing your website for mobile devices, this helps ensure your users experience is seamless on all devices. For example, a mobile first designer sketches his website layout in how it would look on mobile as oppose to typically desktop layouts. They use these smaller scale concepts and then work towards bigger and more complex screens and dimensions.
The concept of mobile-first design became prevalent in 2010, when then-CEO of Google Eric Schmidt announced the company would be focusing on mobile users with their design practices. In a quote, “What’s really important right now is to get the mobile architecture right. Mobile will ultimately be the way you provision most of your services.” The reasoning is simple: mobile design is more limited, you’re designing for smaller screens and you can only use so many elements. It makes you choose what’s most important to your site, and to your users as well.
As we said earlier, close to 51% of the global population uses mobile to do the majority of their internet searches. At the time, there’s a predicted 3.5 billion mobile users in 2020 according to Statista. This means the majority of people use their phones in order to locate content that interests them. Moreover, if you’re looking to increase your traffic; Google algorithms favour sites with mobile-friendly optimization. By providing a good experience for your users on mobile, you increase your overall reach for your company.
Small Screen Friendliness: Mobile-First design makes your digital products more readable on small screens; which is overall more accessible for those who may be vision impaired. When your design helps those with limited vision, it makes your site overall more accessible for anyone else using it.
Organizing Information via Hierarchy: Mobile-First design means content first. This means putting all your important content front page and centre on your web pages. This makes your content accessible again to those who may be vision or cognitively impaired, and again increases the overall usability of your website.
3 Tips for Great Mobile Design:
With mobile-first designs, your content is key. You need to give users the content they’re looking for, and only that. You don’t want your mobile site to be overall cluttered; as this can distract from the users experience. As previously stated, designing for mobile comes with the constraint of screen size. You need to take a look at your content and present it within a visual hierarchy of importance to your user. With this in mind, you’ll only fit the most important elements into your website. You should make titles at the top and centre of your page to increase readability. Moreover, position your content so users can see it right away and keep the navigation buttons easy to reach. Doing all of this is great practice in mobile-first hierarchical design.
Condensing your secondary elements into easy to navigate and reach buttons is another important aspect of mobile-first design. One way to do this is known as the ‘hamburger menu’ method. Hamburger menus are used for your user to access the secondary elements of your page. While many users prefer this method of organization; it can also lead to low engagement on your site. One way to circumvent this is known as ‘combo navigation’, which ‘allows users to see the options they need most and make the rest accessible in a secondary menu.’
Good mobile design at the end of the day, is purposefully kept simple. Never burden users with ads, pop ups, or other Spam content they won’t want to see or interact with. This is especially annoying for mobile users, who have little visual real estate to be wasted on extraneous elements. Streamlining and keeping your website minimal avoids eye cluttering extras that turn your users away.
Ultimately, the most important factor in Mobile-First design is to approach it from the perspective of your mobile user. If it doesn’t enhance their experience, its better left out of your final product.
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