Why You Need a Mobile-First Website in 2019, and How to Create One!

  • Date Published
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Find out how mobile-first web design helps your website to be relevant and appealing to ever more sophisticated and demanding mobile consumers.

Why Having a Mobile-First Website is Essential in 2019!

Take a look around you and tell me what you see. If you are anywhere in public, you will notice people around you focused on little glowing screens. Especially here in Asia mobile consumers are everywhere. Which makes mobile-first web design and having a mobile-first website absolutely essential if you want to meet your business objectives in 2019!

As one of the top mobile-first web design agencies in the US and beyond we have seen this trend coming for a while now. According to Statista, Mobile consumers are outpacing desktop users at a growing rate. And this trend will actually accelerate with the number of smartphone users topping 2.8 Billion by 2020. Is your business website ready for all these mobile consumers?

Being Mobile-First is No Longer Simply an Option!

Mobile-first web design was simply a cool trend when I first started writing about it. But in 2019 having a mobile-first website is of critical importance if you want to appear relevant and stay ahead (or at least at par) in the digital world. There are a number of reasons why you must focus on mobile-first web design.

Your Audience is Mobile-First

The main reason you need a mobile-first website is that your audience is mobile-first as well. Combined smartphone and tablet users by far outnumber desktop users in 2019! Consumers increasingly use mobile devices to interact with a brand, consume content, purchase products or services, read their email, engage on social media, and make dinner reservations or spa appointments.

Some of Your Audience is Mobile Only!

According to TechJury, in 2019 16% of US internet users will use a smartphone only! And in many other countries, especially in Asia and Africa, that percentage is much higher. That means that if you do not have a mobile-first website you are missing a significant percentage of your target audience right from the start!

Search Engines (And Searchers) are Mobile-First

Since 2016 Google has used the mobile-friendliness of a website as a ranking signal and punishes websites that aren’t optimized for smartphones and tablets. Which means if you do not have a mobile-first website you will simply not do well in search rankings. Ouch!

And keep in mind according to a recent study, 60% of all searches are completed on a mobile device. Which means that even if you do come up in search, your potential audience will simply head on over to your competitors if you do not provide the best possible mobile user-experience.

In 2019 simply having a mobile-friendly website is no longer going to cut it, sorry! If you really want to rock your digital space, you must make your website mobile-first in 2019! Here are four key steps you need to take.

Let’s dive a bit deeper into what it takes to actually get a mobile-first website, starting with a closer look at mobile-first web design. Please note that I am referring to mobile-first design, not mobile-friendly design or responsive web design. I will get to that in a moment.

How Mobile-First Web Design is Different

In mobile-first web design there are no separate desktop or mobile website versions. The initial version of a mobile-first website is designed for a mobile device. That means you focus on the design elements and content that are actually required to communicate your message, and make sure these elements and content provide a great user experience on a small screen.

Instead of designing for the desktop click, mobile-first web design focuses on designing for touch. That doesn’t mean that desktop web design is not important. Far from it; desktop usage is not going to end any time soon. Many consumers start their journey of conversion on a mobile device and continue on a laptop or desktop.

Of course, this takes a slightly different web design approach than designing for simply one screen size or application. In order to succeed you actually need a mobile-first web design strategy.

Mobile-First Web Design Strategy

A mobile-first web design strategy is a trend in website development where designing a mobile-first website for smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices takes priority over desktops. With a mobile-first design strategy, a web designer work within the constraints of a mobile platform, such as a smaller screen and slower processor, and then enhance the design for desktop use.

How a Mobile-First Web Design Strategy Works

In a mobile-first web design strategy, a company’s web presence is designed for mobile devices first and desktop second. The desktop version is made as simple as possible. It can then be upgraded with additional features that are only accessible to desktop users. This is different to a desktop-first strategy in which a website is designed for larger screen sizes, and then has any non-compatible elements stripped to create a mobile site.

Another difference in a mobile-first strategy is that it can take advantage of mobile-specific technology such as GPS, data-collecting, built-in cameras, and near-field-communication (NFC) to create features that are unavailable for desktop users.

I already mentioned that a mobile-first website starts with a mobile device screen. Mobile-first web design strategies use a process of graceful degradation and progressive enhancement to create designs that work well across all devices and screen sizes. Let me explain how that works.

Graceful Degradation and Progressive Enhancement

  • Graceful Degradation describes the need to have a site function across a variety of device types and screen sizes. You determine the best design that keeps the site functioning from desktop to iPhone. Graceful degradation is a fancy term for removing certain functionality, design elements, and content as the screen size becomes smaller.
  • Progressive Enhancement works in tandem with graceful degradation. You start with the most minimal functionality, design and content for small screen sizes. You design for the mobile version first, then enhance the design and functionality as the screen size changes with new blocks of content.

Once again, progressive enhancement isn’t the same as responsive design. Responsive design is the using media queries to target specific devices and screen sizes. It works together with progressive enhancement.

In 2019 simply having a mobile-friendly website is no longer going to cut it, sorry! If you really want to rock your digital space, you must make your website mobile-first in 2019! Here are nine key steps you need to take.

Creating a Mobile-First Website in 9 Easy Steps

1 – Audit Your Existing Site

Your website needs to be mobile-friendly before you can start thinking about making it mobile-first. The best way to determine that is to put it through the Google Mobile-Friendly Test. If it passes you are ready to take the next steps. If you fail the mobile-friendly test you at least know where your existing site is falling short.

Here are some common errors to look for:

  • Slow mobile load times
  • Broken or incorrect redirects
  • Uncompressed images
  • Blocked resources including JavaScript, CSS, and images
  • Unsupported or unplayable content
  • Intrusive pop-ups and other interstitials
  • Mobile-only 404 errors

If your website has any of the above errors, you need to fix those before taking the next steps.

2 – Use A Responsive Framework

Mobile-first websites should never be based on a rigid website template or theme. This simply does not provide the best foundation for mobile-first web design. Instead you should utilize a mobile-first framework. By using an HTML framework, it becomes much easier to enhance the design of your website for mobile devices.

Another advantage of a grid-based framework is that it uses columns and rows for designing website content and app interfaces. This makes it easy to optimize each section of your site for small, medium and large screen sizes. You can also display or hide sections from smaller screens.

3 – Focus on User Experience

A mobile-first website’s main purpose is to provide a great user experience for all website visitors. Your website visitors must be able to explore your site to learn more about your product and brand. This is why it’s important to optimize your website for usability.

There are certain key elements of a mobile-first website that need to be optimized for different screen sizes. Text needs to be appropriate for the user’s screen size. Images must be correctly sized and optimized. Use interactive buttons instead of text links and simplify the browsing experience by using mobile-friendly image galleries with swipe gestures.

4 – Simplify Navigation

A key aspect of mobile user-experience is your navigation menu. The standard top-level menu with dropdowns simply does not work well on mobile devices. If your desktop website has a large navigation menu, displaying it as it is will take up too much space on a mobile screen. Instead, you should hide the navigation links behind a hamburger menu button.

5 – Optimize for Speed

When it comes to mobile SEO and user experience, website page load speed is critical. Google has been using page load speed as a mobile ranking factor since 2018. Therefore, you must do everything you can to optimize your website for maximum page speed. Start by implementing the following techniques to the website performance:

  • Install a caching plugin: If your website is built with WordPress, you can use a plugin such as WP Super Cache to set up a caching system for your website.
  • Install a CDN: Setup a free CDN to deliver website content according to the geolocation of the visitors to speed up the website.
  • Optimize the images: Compress the images for mobile screens and use lazy-loading to deliver images without slowing page loading speed.
  • Switch to HTTPS: Consider installing an SSL certificate and move your website to the secure HTTPS protocol. It will not only secure your website — it will also improve loading speed.
  • Upgrade to PHP 7.3: By upgrading the software version of your website server you can achieve a reduction in page load speed of up to 10%.

6 – Optimize for Voice Search

Mobile consumers don’t spend time to type search queries in their smartphones. If you really want to be relevant for them, you need to incorporate voice search as you make your website mobile-first in 2019. Recent studies have shown that 55% of teens and 40% of adults use voice search on a daily basis.

As you optimize your website for voice search consider the following:

How We Use Voice Search

Queries typed into Google are often abbreviated. Searches for “Sushi Restaurant” are much more common than asking the full question: “Where is the closest Sushi restaurant to my location?” Using long-tail keywords assures that customers will find your location.

Why We Use Voice Search

According to Google’s Micro Moments Guide voice search is most commonly used to answer these questions:

  • I want to know ____________
  • How to go ____________
  • I want to do ____________
  • Where to buy ____________

Each of these search queries identifies an immediate need, as in I am hungry for lunch! Therefore, the best way to answer them is with short, accurate answers.

7 – Prioritize Local Search

The next step to make your website mobile-first in 2019 is to optimize it for local search. According to Google’s Micro Moments Guide searches for “near me” more than doubled in 2016!

And you may be interested in knowing that 1 in 3 smartphone users decide to purchase from a brand simply because that brand shows up as they are searching for information, not necessarily because they decided ahead of time.

As you make your website mobile-first in 2019 prepare for local search by doing the following:

8 – Utilize Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)

Another step to make your website mobile-first in 2019 is to adapt your content for Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). These pages are designed to load almost instantaneously. According to Google, AMP load approximately 4 times as fast and offer mobile consumers everything they are looking for.

AMP pages use stripped down HTML coding and custom tags to achieve this lightning-fast load time, meaning that most articles will require two versions:

  • An original version with full images and any multimedia you would normally include.
  • An AMP version without any JavaScript, embedded content, lead forms, etc.

Optimizing for AMP may not be required for all website. Here at the highly caffeinated agency, we believe it is essential in giving your posts and pages an extra boost.

9 – Test and Improve

The final and most important step in mobile-first web design is to test your mobile-first website to make sure it looks just right on different types of devices, platforms, and browsers. Make sure your site looks as great on an old Android phone as it does on the latest iPhone. You can easily test your website design for responsiveness and consider A/B split testing your landing pages to optimize your site for the best mobile results.

Final Thoughts on Mobile-First Design

I have been saying long before 2019 that the future is mobile. Brands that fail to have a mobile-first website in 2019 will simply not be able to keep up. With the majority of consumers using mobile devices brands that fail to prepare for the mobile-first web will simply lose too many potential customers.

If you want your users to have the best possible experience on mobile and desktop devices, mobile-first web design is the way to go. You won’t have to worry about there being mobile feature constraints, or slower loading times when using a mobile device. Google shouldn’t penalize you either, since your website will load fast from any viewing device.

Finally, taking a mobile-first web design approach allows you to think about what actually needs to be on your site. Instead of trying to fill in all the whitespace with fluff, you focus on what the user actually wants/needs to complete the action. In order to maintain optimal functionality, you’ll work harder to make sure your site is full of only the most critical content and features necessary to help your business succeed.

Creating a mobile-first website is essential if you want to provide the best possible user-experience for ever more sophisticated and demanding mobile consumers. However, mobile-first web design can get tricky, and you may require some professional help. If you are not sure how or where to get started we are here to help.

Need Help with Mobile-First 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 a mobile-first website, 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 web design strategies in your online presence. It is one of our specialties, after all!

Is Your Website Mobile-First?

Do you have a mobile-first web site for your business or product brand? If so, how has this helped your brand meet its business objectives? If not, what is the biggest obstacle you face getting a mobile-first online presence? Do you have other problems with your business website 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