Ready for a crazy mobile internet statistic?
In the last eight years, daily media consumption on mobile devices has grown by a whopping 504 percent!
And the demand for mobile-friendly internet continues to skyrocket.
So if your site is not optimized for mobile-first, your customers run the risk of missing out on getting the whole experience. And when your customers miss out, so do you.
Let’s talk about what mobile-first design is and is not, and why it matters to you.
Why Use Mobile-First Design Now?
Are you reading this on a smartphone? Probably, if statistics have anything to say about it.
In addition to the statistic listed above, other numbers indicate that 63 percent of all online traffic in the US alone is via smartphones and tablets this holds true for Vero Beach too.
Looking worldwide, 52.2 percent occurred via smartphones last year.
In short, these numbers tell us that mobile-first is not only important now, but it will also continue to be more important as phone and tablet use rises each year.
It isn’t a far cry to call mobile-first design one of the most profound changes to ever have happened to internet use, especially in the arenas of online marketing and website development.
The numbers also indicate that the balance is not entirely equal; mobile market share across the globe is at just over 52 percent, while the desktop market share is stalled and dropping at just over 44 percent. And more than half of all searches performed are based from a mobile device.
Since it’s more likely than ever that your customers will be viewing your site on a phone rather than a laptop or desktop, mobile-first optimization is a no-brainer.
Stuck In The Past
Of course, just because there’s an obvious need for something doesn’t mean that everyone is immediately on board with it.
There are plenty of web designers out there who seem to be stuck in the past, rather than keeping up with the new turn toward mobile-friendly and mobile-first
But keeping your site running at the optimum level to reach the most people just makes sense. And while there are some not-great examples of designers who can’t seem to move forward, there are also examples like Google, which has been a trailblazer in mobile-first design and which assigns value to mobile-first sites.
Mobile-First Vs. Mobile-Responsive
From a layman’s standpoint, these two terms are basically interchangeable.
On the design level, though, there are definitely some differences.
Approach: Mobile-first design focuses on mobile needs rather than those of a desktop interface. Mobile-responsive design is design that is built around desktop outlays and altered to fit mobile after the fact. Mobile-responsive design is heavier and more complicated and uses CSS to adjust each site to the device, rather than designing the site for the device, to begin with.
Strategy: Each method focuses on a specific set of users and their needs. Mobile-first is a design strategy that focuses on the needs of mobile users first. Mobile-responsive is developed with the needs of desktop users first. Both use a mobile-responsive framework, but each is centered on a different group of people.
The How-To: Optimizing Your Website
It was mentioned earlier that Google is promoting a mobile-first approach by indexing according to that strategy. Following that method is a great way to up your Google ranking, while at the same time catering to the greater majority of internet users who access your site via mobile.
The task of optimization for a mobile-first approach is definitely worth the effort.
Let’s talk about seven of the best practices for mobile-first optimization: from the initial stages of web development, to the inclusion of SEO keywords, to maintaining your website on the cutting edge of both customer service and technology.
Use Responsive Design
How does your website look on a computer screen versus on a mobile phone? More to the point, what’s the URL?
If you’re still using an m-dot URL, it may be time to change. M-dots are mimic or echo websites that are created to take the place of the actual website when viewed on a mobile device. But the use of more than one URL for theoretically the same site can be confusing, and even result in duplication unless properly optimized.
On the other hand, mobile-first design uses responsive design, using a media query, which allows for content rendering to adapt to circumstances like screen resolution.
The upshot of this is avoiding the potential confusion of separate websites,
Mobile-first calls for the implementation of responsive design. This method of designing uses what is known as a media query (a CSS3 module that lets content rendering adapt to certain conditions, like screen resolution).
The biggest benefit is that you won’t run into duplicate content issues that usually crop up in m-dot websites.
Optimize WordPress Sites For Mobile
WordPress is downright famous for the sheer number of plugins available to download. And many of these are designed to increase the compatibility of the site with mobile usage.
A few plugins that come highly recommended include:
- WP Rocket
- W3 Total Cache
- Jetpack by WordPress.com
All of these are focused on minimizing CSS and HTML and maximizing mobile-friendly design.
Use Codes To Increase Site Speed
We live in a hi-def world. If you can’t see every crease and wrinkle on every face, then are you really even looking at a hi-res image?
Unfortunately, high definition definitely slows down the loading speed of a site and interferes with the mobile-friendliness of it.
The good news is that coding images helps save site loading speed. Coding images is suggested for times when the photo or graphic being used isn’t absolutely necessary to the overall impact of the page.
It is a small change, and for a few images it may not seem like much.
But if you’re running an image-heavy site, the accumulative coding can be a huge difference in promoting mobile-friendliness.
No More Flash Videos
When was the last time you saw a flash video? It may have been years, but there are still some active sites that use that method.
But flash videos are definitely not mobile-first optimized.
The suggestion is to use HTML5 video. If you’re not familiar with this, it’s good to know that it not only offers browser support, but is automatically supported by mobile devices like smartphones and tablets.
That’s even without needing to download a support app or a plugin. Unlike flash video, not to be too pointed about it.
You might consider hosting your video on YouTube (owned by Google…)
Elevate User Experience With Web-Mobile Integrated Content
User experience is a vital concern for anyone who wants a successful website. And confusing your users with vastly different content on your mobile site as compared to your desktop site isn’t exactly good UX.
To promote a positive all-round experience, without frustration and confusion, responsive design strategies are definitely recommended. These help your customers to be able to find the information they need, when they need it, regardless of whether they’re the majority using a smartphone or tablet, or the slightly smaller minority using a desktop platform.
Responsive design promotes a seamless transition between platforms. Responsive design promotes good UX.
Structured Data From Schema
Mobile-first relies a great deal on a schema. This is a vital component, allowing the designation of pages which contain structured information necessary for both web crawlers and internet users.
A good example of this is the need for ready access to solid information for eCommerce websites.
Structured data outlines the information that search engines and web crawlers need, which makes it easier for them to read the data and return results. Returning results also heightens your site’s visibility to the public.
Mobile-First Layout Means Important Info Above The Fold
It’s common in good web design to ensure that the important things are placed above the fold. Whether that’s the actionable content, the CTA, or the cutest picture of your cat, good web design ensures that the visitor is hooked from the get-go.
While the newspaper-derived parlance sounds almost archaic, using the “above the fold” rule is incredibly important for mobile-first website layout.
It gives the visitor a reason to keep looking at the site, and to scroll further on. Including that important information is a great way to get — and keep — the attention of the audience, telling them that there is something worthwhile there.
It also helps to increase the amount of time that a visitor is likely to spend on your site, whether mobile or desktop.
Optimize Your Optimization With Mobile-First Design
Mobile usage has outstripped the older tendency to desktop use. And responsive design, while still an important part of good web design, just isn’t enough. With an ever higher percentage of mobile users taking over the internet, it’s vital for the success of your website, and your company, that you make them a priority.
And Google is pushing that agenda, with its mobile-first index which keeps account of sites that are mobile-friendly.
It may seem overwhelming, but it is definitely possible to change your design, and your thinking pattern, to make the move toward mobile-first. Simple steps like altering image coding, placing CTAs and important information above the fold, and modifying videos can all assist in the change to a more useful site for mobile visitors.
On the other hand, as is clear to be seen from the statistics, a refusal or inability to optimize your WordPress site for mobile will end up frustrating your customers and costing your business money in losses.
There’s a lot more to cover in this area of mobile-first design. But these seven pointers are general rules of thumb for ensuring that your optimization is as useful as possible, both to your customer and to your site.