Mobile First: When it comes to web design, it’s time to start small

Example of Desktop, Tablet and Mobile Versions of a Website

No longer can mobile browsing be an afterthought. In many situations, it should be the forethought.

Here’s why:

In 2014, 1 out of every 4 Web searches will be done through a mobile device.

So, how can you ensure a streamlined, enhanced mobile experience for your customers? Use Mobile First Web design.

Why Mobile First?

Think of your last mobile Internet experience. Frustrating? Boring? Impossible? That’s how I typically after a Web surfing session attempt. Because let’s face it: most sites don’t translate to mobile browsers. And if they do, they’re usually horribly unhelpful, watered down versions of the “real thing.”

In fact, less than 10 percent of businesses have mobile-ready sites.

Originally, developers began with a standard website, implementing every innovative feature they can. Then, they gradually scaled back design to accommodate smaller browsers. As the platforms funneled down from desktop to tablet to mobile, features were removed. The result: a stripped-down — but still functional — mobile web experience.

But, as a business owner, your goal is not to merely have a “functional” mobile site.

Making mobile more functional

With the Mobile First philosophy, the mobile experience is the catalyst for most design decisions. And it forces your to focus on the most important, essential elements in your website. There is no room for extraneous elements — the ones that bog down your viewers.

By starting with your mobile site design, you create a polished, optimized product that features your business’s most vital information. And your customers will appreciate the updated user experience.

But what about the desktop site?

Remember how standard methodology scaled back design, moving from desktop to mobile? Well, Mobile First ideology does the opposite. Start small, and then “progressively enhance” the experience up the ladder. You’ve already prioritized the site’s necessities, so you can now adapt those priorities to more robust platforms with advanced technologies.

The hard part

But mobile design isn’t always the best option, and it’s certainly not the easiest.

Mobile browsers limit design capabilities. The screen is small and the options are fewer. Plus, think of the sheer range of mobile devices, and the browser combinations that come with it.

Designing with a Mobile First mindset takes time. It forces developers (and business owners!) to adapt — both mentally and technically. And the obstacles can vary depending on the project’s scope and variables like levels of access to the site.

One solution to these challenges: Responsive Web Design. In this methodology, designers create a website that can adapt to any screen resolution. So, no matter the device, your users will have a fluid, successful Web experience.

How Mobile First design will revitalize your business

A useless mobile site will hurt your business.

If a user has difficulties with a mobile site, there is a 40 percent chance they would leave that site and visit a competitor’s. Customer experience is everything — so give them the best mobile experience possible.

With Mobile First design, you ensure that your customers will experience your optimized website — whether they’re using a smartphone or a desktop.