Having spent nearly 20 years in the web development field, I was an early adopter and strong advocate of the “mobile first” approach that has recently came on strong.
It forces many good habits that, frankly, the industry should have been paying attention to all along. Prioritizing the right content for the visitor’s needs just makes sense.
Mobile first means exactly that – considering what is most important for smartphone and tablet readers to see when they reach your website from those devices. It is (and should be!) a different experience from the desktop.
As Geoff detailed in his recent “Mobile Only is Foolish” post, TKG definitely does not advocate the easily-confused idea of mobile only. Mobile only is very different than mobile first, and it’s easy to see where people may be fooled into mobile only.
Commonly, what happens in mobile only is that a desktop experience existed and then a completely separate mobile experience is considered. With this approach, the likelihood that the brand’s intended experience across devices becomes increasingly fragmented. What happens is you end up cramming all of the information into the smaller displays or just cut it out entirely. Just having a link to everything that you would on the desktop doesn’t mean you’ve successfully delivered the right experience.
Not to mention what it says to Google and your SEO rankings.
A mobile first approach takes more thought and time to plan, but the return is tremendous. Desktop displays afford much more space to play with, and typically require more bandwidth and technology to produce a desired experience. The beauty of a mobile first approach is that the core experience is maintained throughout the site, no matter what device your visitor is using. The mobile experience is delivered with the minimum required components and then is progressively enhanced as the display, bandwidth and technology allows.
Here’s your strategy for doing it right:
- Goals: Mobile first thinking immediately brings to the surface the need for clear goals for the site. Most often a conversion is desired, whether that be a phone call, a lead form or an e-commerce sale. This usually isn’t a one-step path. And often, the goal(s) of a mobile user are different than a desktop user, so we must make accommodations for those realities. Some simple things are quick access to things like directions, hours or click-to-call. These are things you might keep available on a desktop experience, but likely tone down.
- Content First:Again, with limited screen space, mobile first thinking forces our content to be focused on the most critical messaging. So, as your content is developed, key messaging should be separated from their expanded topic(s), while allowing both to be present for the visitor. This decision-making typically bodes very well then for larger display experiences by allowing a great amount of flexibility when presenting content. Of course, to execute that focus on key messaging, the designer must have the actual content prior to design to properly present it for the varied experiences.
- Navigation:Navigation menus can present a substantial challenge, particularly on large sites. Taking a mobile first approach again brings these challenges to the surface early on and facilitates the need (opportunity) for structural prioritization. When possible, simplify. Long lists of navigation are forced to be tucked away as a utility to the visitor to allow key messaging to remain in focus. Remember, out-of-sight is often out-of-mind. The saving grace is that if your goals are clearly identified and your content provides a supporting path, those navigation menus should be able to remain a utility (in non-commerce websites).
Contracting a reputable digital partner to redesign your website from a mobile first approach isn’t the quickest, but I know without a doubt that it’s the most effective. A side benefit is that you only pay to maintain one “website” instead of multiple, which means that Google stays happy too and you won’t get dinged on the search marketing implications of having multiple websites.
Invest in creating the mobile experience first, put focus on your goals and reap the rewards of a better experience for those interacting with your business. As with any change, it’s not easy, but it’s the right thing to move your business forward.