According to industry reports, 60 percent of total digital media time spent from 2013 to 2014 was done from a mobile device. And that’s only going to increase. To effectively reach this audience, it’s time to start thinking about moving your website away from a Desktop First approach, and over to a Mobile First approach.
Traditionally, a website was built with its priority toward displaying on a desktop computer, where it could then be scaled down for use on a mobile device. That’s called “graceful degradation.”
That’s worked just fine for several years, but with that 60 percent number climbin, that method isn’t going to cut it anymore.
With your audience primarily using mobile, you should be designing for Mobile First. With this method, your site is designed for mobile use primarily, then can be scaled upward to the desktop. That’s called “progressive enhancement.”
We’re starting to see our clients and their needs going more toward this Mobile First philosophy, and that changes everything: how you look at navigation, how you look at prioritizing the content structure and the overall graphic design of the site.
Navigation, in the traditional Desktop First version, has tons of options: think pull-downs, subpages and deep, deep navigation menus. You can’t do that with Mobile First; what you need are fewer options that get people where they’re going in as few touches as possible. This can be done by creating more landing pages, for example, but the navigation menu itself should have very few choices.
Graphic design, if you are going Mobile First, means getting rid of the extraneous: flashy graphics and fluffy content have no place -- it will be ignored or even worse, drive users away. You have limited bandwidth and limited screen real estate to work with. Mobile First is all about action and content: content that is short and concise, and action that should be easy to get to and prominent (think register, sign up and purchase here).
It sounds easy to say Mobile First, but it truly is a complete mindshift. In some ways, it’s almost a throwback to the days when we first started (21 years ago) and the web was young. Back then you had very little bandwidth and small monitors that affected how you designed a website. Same thing today when it comes to mobile. The only difference now is that we can do far cooler stuff within the same limitations than we ever thought possible back then.
Maybe a better of way of saying it is it’s Back to the Future for all of us.