How you can meet the user expectations and provide a better user experience for ever more demanding and sophisticated mobile consumers.
Why You Need Mobile-First UX Design!
When I first studied design in college one of my professors asked, “What is good design?” And everyone in the class did their best to come up with an answer. I mean, good design is good design, right? But even back then it was not that easy or straightforward. Good design in large parts depends on what you are designing, and who you are designing it for. And this is especially true when it comes to mobile-first UX design, and providing the best possible mobile-first user experience.
You see, mobile-first UX design can take lots of different approaches. And there is definitely no one single best solution. Instead, there are special considerations that come into play in mobile-first user experience design. UX design principles for an app intended to run on a desktop computer will be much different from effective mobile UX design considerations.
Even within an umbrella category like “mobile-first UX design” there are differences between designing a mobile app and a mobile-first website. When users download an app, they don’t just want the mobile version of the website. They want a unique experience that justifies the time they spent downloading the app.
Mobile-first user experience design can no longer be overlooked in 2019. Worldwide, more people access the internet from their mobile and tablet devices than from desktop computers. Ignoring mobile users is no longer something that business owners or marketers can afford. To help you do better let me outline some basic mobile-first user experience design considerations and principles.
Mobile-First UX Is Critical in 2019
I still hear some business owners, and even some designers, tell me that mobile-first design is not really on their horizon or agenda. Here is what I say to them; like it or not, mobile-first user experience design is the only way you can go in 2019.
This is not up to you any longer. According to Statista, on average over 48% of all website traffic globally comes from mobile devices. Here in Asia the percentage is over 60%! And mobile users are looking for better mobile user experiences. Mobile-first UX design simply means that you have to put mobile users and their needs before desktop users. So, what exactly is mobile-first web design?
What is Mobile-First UX?
Up to recently designers primarily focused on desktop versions of websites and relied on a variety of methods to make desktop sites render on mobile devices. For the most part, this produced less than acceptable results. Enter the mobile age. According to Business Insider, by next year almost 75% of the global population will be connected by mobile devices. Which means the demand for mobile-first websites has never been greater, nor will it diminish any time soon.
With the focus shifting towards mobile-first development this will only increase the need for mobile-first design, and by extension improving the mobile-first user experience. Instead of starting by designing the user experience for desktop screens, and dumbing it down from there, we see a shift to mobile-first UX design. We now need to create user experiences for small screens and add enhancements for larger screens later.
The Importance of Mobile-First UX Design
Have you noticed how many people around you are glued to little glowing screens? It may seem at times that we spend more time in the virtual world of our devices than in real life already in progress all around us. Be that as it may, the majority of consumers are using mobile devices. I have previously covered the importance of mobile-first web design. But you will do much better if you consider mobile-first user experience design as much, if not more.
Of course you should focus on mobile-first web design considerations! But also ask yourself if your online presence really provides the best user experience for your mobile audience. Are you really considering how your audience will interact with your website or online store on a mobile device? Are you making that easy enough for them, or are you simply frustrating them?
How Mobile-First User Experience Design Works
With an ongoing shift from image-driven sites to primarily content-focused sites, the small screen gives both designers and business owners and marketers new opportunities to benefit from the latest trends in mobile-first UX design by focusing on the content while working within mobile device restrictions.
Simply put, mobile-first user experience design is content first design. By simply focusing on the most essential information you will be able to increase usability and user engagement. Which in turn will reduce your bounce rate and increase your conversions. Which is what you want from your website, right?
Why You Should Care about Mobile-First UX Design
Is your site designed for mobile-first usability? Mobile-first web design is the new normal. There is a very good chance your target audience is viewing your website or online store from their phone or tablet, instead of their desktop or even laptop computer. You may ask yourself if you should rebuild your existing site to make it mobile-first, or if mobile-first UX is worth the extra money. Let me provide you with some food for thought.
It is Worth Your Investment
A while ago Moz.com talked about the value of the mobile-first web design and user experience. Many business owners believe that hiring a web designer or agency is simply about the look of their website. But there is much more to it. You are hiring experts to help you determine the best design interactions. How will your web site visitors engage and interact with your online presence, and find what they’re looking for in the most pleasing way possible? That, in a nutshell, is mobile-first user experience design.
The basic difference in mobile-first UX design is manipulating mobile user behavior through design, rather than simply focusing on a visually improved redesign. Mobile UX design takes into consideration the user’s probable response to the User Interface (UI) and aligns the design of interactive elements to meet mobile user expectations and achieve a certain objective, such as clicking on your CTA link.
The need for this level of mobile UX design often requires a rework of existing sites versus a top-layer re-skin. As mobile consumers outnumber desktop users, the importance of designing experiences for mobile screens becomes more important. But trying to transform an outdated, legacy website into a desirable mobile-first user experience is difficult, if not impossible. Compare that to a ‘mobile-first’ site which, is created to leverage the extra capabilities of mobile devices.
It’s Not What’s Next. Mobile-First is Now!
There has been a fundamental shift in user behavior. Up to about 2016 websites were primarily designed for desktop users. Mobile versions of sites, if they existed at all, provided a rudimentary experience at best. With the increase of global mobile consumers, it is only natural that user behavior and expectations changed as well.
Today desktop experiences are primarily focused on enterprise applications. But even for corporate or enterprise level websites interactions must be also available via mobile devices. But primarily leisure activities, including consumer shopping, social interactions, surfing the online world, etc. are mainly reserved for mobile devices.
From 2012 to 2018 the total daily amount of time spent on a mobile device in the US by adults jumped from 88 to 203 minutes a day. Statista
This report from Hosting Tribunal clearly shows what percentage of internet traffic is mobile in 2019. “Our phones have become our connection to the world – sometimes they even provide us with the safe space we need. And more – we can shop, we can book a restaurant or our family’s vacation on our phones, or just spend some time on our favorite game app.”
Putting Mobile Users First
By now I should not even have to say this. In any mobile-first design project, the user should always come first, and the needs of mobile consumers are even more important and specific. If business owners and web designers don’t cater to mobile users’ needs, those users will very quickly move on to other websites, apps, or distractions.
Following are a few things designers can do to meet the specific needs of mobile users and improve the overall mobile-first user experience ever more demanding and sophisticated mobile consumers have come to expect.
Here is what I recommend:
Make Navigation Intuitive
Navigation on mobile sites and apps needs to be more intuitive than it is on desktop sites. Users need to be able to immediately identify how to get around a mobile app or website. This can be achieved through recognizable design patterns (such as hamburger menus) as well as recognizable icons (a “home” icon for the home screen, a chat bubble for messaging, etc.).
A main tenet of mobile-first user experience design is this: if users have to think about how to navigate, they’re more likely to disengage from the website, or close the app and look for a simpler solution. Is that what you really want?
Create a Seamless Experience Across Devices
Here is another critical mobile-first UX design rule. Make sure that when a user is accessing content on an app, mobile website, or desktop website, the transition between using them is seamless. The design elements should mirror one another, such as using the same colors, fonts, and interactive elements.
Not only does a seamless mobile-first user experience make things easier for people using a website or app, but it also builds trust and reinforces your brand image across all devices.
Make User Objectives a Priority
The goals a person has on a mobile app or website are probably different than those they have on a full desktop site. For example, on a restaurant app, a visitor is likely going to want to view the menu, make a reservation, or get directions. Most likely they are not looking up the full history of the business on their mobile phone. You can improve the mobile-first user experience by hiding that info in menus or submenus.
Mobile-first UX design requires you to think through what a user actually wants to do on a mobile app. One key element that often gets overlooked is basic usability. For example, banking apps often ask for a login in order to do anything on the app. But finding the location of the nearest ATM should not require the user to sign in. Making those features easy to access is a great way to improve UX.
Keep Things as Easy as Possible
When a consumer visits a website or app on their mobile device, they want to complete the task at hand as quickly as possible. Make completing necessary tasks as easy as possible, and you will automatically improve the mobile-first user experience. Eliminate everything that is not absolutely critical for the task at hand. Making necessary tasks simpler on a mobile interface is also key.
For example, many E-Commerce apps and sites now offer a camera option for inputting credit card information. Rather than typing in a card number, shoppers can aim their camera at their credit card and the app will automatically read the number.
Use Established Gestures
Once again, I should not even have to mention this. You need to consider established gestures people are already used to using on their devices. Things like pinching to zoom or swiping have become intuitive for most users and should be employed whenever possible. Keep in mind many mobile users use one hand only.
An important aspect of mobile-first user experience design is this; when you decide to deviate from an established gesture for whatever reason you must make users aware of this deviation, either during the onboarding process or when the use-case appears for the first time.
Designing for the Thumb Zone
Mobile UX design tends to be a bit different. When designing for mobile layouts there are certain considerations you need to take into account. One of the most frequently overlooked is the size of your touchscreen targets.
While a mouse or trackpad can click with pinpoint accuracy, fingertips and especially your thumbs are considerably less accurate. According to Adobe, targets should be 7-10mm on a mobile device’s screen. This allows for a fingertip to tap the target without having to aim too carefully.
As I already mentioned, another mobile-first UX design consideration is making your site or app passes the thumb zone test. The thumb zone is the area of a phone’s screen that can be easily accessed with the thumb when a person is holding their phone with one hand. Putting the majority of interactive content (and particularly calls-to-action) in this zone is vital to creating a positive mobile-first user experience.
Less is More
It’s important for mobile-first user experience design to cut out as much clutter as possible. Minimalism is your friend when it comes to mobile apps and websites. Trying to cram everything included in your desktop UI into a screen that’s a fraction of the size makes the design look cramped and can be overwhelming. And that provides a really crappy mobile experience!
Focusing on user goals and expectations, minimizing navigation options by using sub-menus, and generally eliminating any element that is not absolutely essential for users to do what they need to do will create a more streamlined and user-friendly UI.
Don’t Forget the Details
While cutting out the on-screen clutter, do not to overlook some key mobile UX design details. One of these is making sure design elements have sufficient contrast. Consumers often look at their mobile devices in less-than-ideal conditions. especially bright sunlight can make elements on a screen hard to see. Higher contrast will help to make elements more visible and provide a better mobile user experience.
Typography is another key consideration. Titles and headers should be easy to spot, and fonts, in general, should be larger. No one enjoys squinting at their screen to try to read big blocks of text on their phone. Clear headers bulleted or numbered lists, and short paragraphs all make mobile text more legible.
A final mobile-first UX design consideration is the use of transitions and animations. An animation can be an important signal to a user that whatever action they just took did something. Animations and clear transitions between screens or functions in a mobile app are key bits of feedback that create a more satisfying mobile-first user experience.
Focus on Speed
Despite widespread 4G data availability and the advent of 5G networks, many mobile networks are slower than their WiFi or broadband equivalents. And in many parts of the world 4G is not yet available, and mobile consumers are stuck with even slower data speeds.
That means mobile websites and especially mobile apps need to be fast. Including content in an app that doesn’t need to be downloaded every time the app loads will make the app faster. Another mobile-first UX design strategy is only loading content as it becomes necessary.
No matter what you do, it is always a balancing act between not loading content that won’t be used (and using up data) and creating the perception of speed by preloading content users are likely to need next.
Following these established mobile-first UX design principles will create a better overall mobile user experience for people visiting a mobile site or using a mobile app. You only have a few seconds to catch the attention of your target audience before they abandon your app or site in favor of one that’s more user-friendly, intuitive, or streamlined. Unfortunately, most often that will be one of your competitors.
Great mobile-first user experience design is becoming more common, and the bar has been raised even further in terms of what users expect from their mobile apps. Therefore, you can no longer view mobile-first UX design as an afterthought. Instead you need to focus on the needs and expectations of your mobile audience and provide the best possible mobile-first user experience. We are here to help.
Need Help with Mobile-First UX Design?
Our innovative mobile-first web design team can help you develop just about any type of website. We are experts at carefully crafting custom mobile-first websites to meet (almost) any budget. From designing new WordPress websites, redesigning or updating an existing website, building responsive e-Commerce websites to creating a multilingual online presence for your business we work directly with the client to prepare them for the ever more demanding mobile consumer. Why not get started by requesting your free web design estimate?
And if you are still not sure how you can benefit from mobile-first user experience design, don’t worry! Simply reach out and contact us. Our expert team will listen to you, answer your questions, and determine the best way to implement mobile-first UX design strategies on your website or app. It is one of our specialties, after all!
Are You Meeting Mobile-First User Expectations?
Have you focused on mobile-first UX design on your website or app? If so, how has this helped you better meet your mobile user expectations? If not, what is the biggest obstacle you face getting a mobile-first online presence? Do you have other problems with your mobile-first UX design? Please feel free to let us know so our audience can benefit as well and grab our feed so you don’t miss our next post! And feel free to share our post with your audience!
Thank you! We appreciate your help to end bad business websites, one pixel at a time!
By Gregor Schmidt
Co-Founder / CXO