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Mobile-First Design: What Is It & Why Is It Important

6mins read

Mobile phones are everywhere - in our pockets, on the tables, and stuffed away in drawers. They're also an integral part of our daily lives that we use to check emails, watch videos, read the news, shop online, and much more. Because of the crucial role they play in our lives, it is important for designers to make sure their websites look good on mobile devices as well as desktop computers. 

Mobile-first design (MFD) helps you do just that by designing your layouts with smartphones in mind before expanding outward to larger screens. This article will go over what MFD is and why it makes sense to implement this type of design methodology into your workflow when creating websites or apps.

What is mobile-first design?

Mobile-first design is a concept that has been around for a while and was first coined by Luke Wroblewski in 2010. The basic idea of mobile-first design is to develop the most basic version of your web page on phones and then move up from there as you develop more content and features. This approach makes it easier to focus on what really matters: making sure users can access everything they need with ease no matter how small their screen size may be. 

While this method isn't necessarily new, it's still something many designers are not familiar with or don't think about when starting a project. Mobile-first design can help those creating websites keep users' needs at the forefront of all decisions made throughout the process.

Why is the mobile-first approach so important?

When it comes to understanding the importance of mobile UX, we can start by looking at the statistics. As of 2021, there are over 6 billion smartphone users worldwide. This number is only expected to grow; in 2026, it’s estimated that there will be 7,5 billion smartphone users worldwide. In addition, the age at which individuals use a smartphone is also lowering, which increases a site's target audience. 

If you’re a designer, take a moment and check Google Console Data for the number of mobile users using a particular website. We’re guaranteed you’ll discover that more people view a website through their smartphones than on their laptops. 

It’s also important to note that Google’s algorithm favours the mobile-friendliness of a website. When you’re on Google’s good side, your site becomes more discoverable, which leads to more traffic and higher conversion rates. 

A few more reasons why designing for mobile is important:

  • 72% of smartphone users in the UK use their phone for internet searches

  • The average person checks their smartphone every 12 minutes

  • 36% of UK users use their phone for more than an hour a day

  • Millennials spend over 5 hours a day on their smartphones

What if my site doesn’t optimise for mobile-first web design?

If your site has not been designed for mobile first, it can be an unpleasant experience for the user. For example, if a site requires you to use pinch or zoom to read articles, you are more likely to abandon the site. 

Another factor to consider is that unoptimised mobile sites will slow loading time. Given that content hasn’t been designed for smartphones, it will most likely contain files that are too large for smartphones.

Navigation also becomes an issue when designers haven’t taken note of the layout of a website on a smartphone. A lack of navigation means that users will struggle to find what they’re looking for and abandon the site.

All of these factors influence the bounce rate of your website. If your bounce rate is too high, there goes your relationship with Google.

Best practises for designing for mobile

When it comes to UX design, your ​​website’s mobile phone design should be at the forefront of your design process. The mobile end has more restrictions, so once you’ve designed a great design for a smartphone, you can move onto tablets, PCs and laptops.

  1. Think about making it easy for customers

Think about the initial reason why a customer or user would visit your site. Is it to access information or make a purchase? With the main focus of a website in mind, start by prioritising this function and then work from there. The site will need to support the critical steps that ensure a customer or user can complete the task they arrived on your website for.

  1. Don’t forget about website speed

UX design and speed go hand in hand; you can’t have one without the other. What’s the point of having a website that looks glorious but takes so long to load that users leave the site. 

When designing for mobile, keep speed in mind by limiting javascript and CSS, large images and big files. Mobile phones are less powerful than laptops, so while a site might load quickly on PCs, it could take a while on a smartphone.

  1. Select a template that works across platforms

During this process, it’s also essential to consistency throughout process designs so that each step is a unified process. You also want to ensure that the design is unified across platforms. This will help your user understand your brand identity and help strengthen the reliability of your site.

When selecting a template, it’s best to go for a responsive design as Google favours it.

  1. Use translation services

Translation services are an integral part of any website. When a business deals with international clients, it can be difficult to communicate without using translation services. These services allow the client and customer to understand what is being said and read on the mobile site. The use of translations will help increase your online visibility and revenue by targeting international markets. 

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