Over 87% of people that access the internet are using a smartphone. I bet you’re one of them.

For web developers, it’s one thing to make a website. It’s also a whole other thing to create one using mobile-first web design.

How can you be sure that your site is well received amongst mobile users?

With mobile-first as the norm, there have been several best practices already established. More on this below.

The Devices

The term smartphone first dropped in 1995, but the game really changed in 2007 with the introduction of the Apple iPhone.

Since iPhone, the number of platforms that people can use to access the internet has exploded.

We use the term mobile-first web design, to apply to a variety of devices. Not just phones, but tablets, smartwatches and more.

The size of the screen you’re looking at may change over time, but mobile-first will still apply to it.

Mobile-first Web Design Defined

Mobile-first has its roots in a concept known as responsive web design. You would have heard that term a lot in the late 00’s.

To design for mobile, you start with the most minimal amount of development for your app or webpage and build it up to the highest-possible screen display.

This concept isn’t just for phones. It applies to the usability of sites, maximizing web ‘real-estate’ and the reduction of unnecessary features on pages.

The aim is to make the user feel like their reason for looking at the site or page was worth their time!

The Problem with Desktop-first

71% of mobile users expect a website to load as fast, or faster than the same site on a desktop computer.

If you were to start with designing for desktops or large screens first, you risk hampering traffic from mobile users.

This is because the smaller devices can become overloaded with too much information.

Also by prioritizing desktops, you miss out on a ton of features and functions specific to mobile devices. Examples being GPS, voice input and more.

Limited Drawbacks

This list gets smaller each year, but in the interest of being fair and balanced, there are some less-than-ideal facets of mobile-first design.

  • Hover effects — these don’t always work as great on mobile, make sure your mobile site doesn’t rely too much on them
  • Image load time — for mobile, remember to use smaller versions of files so your load time isn’t impacted
  • Google penalty — Google will penalize you in the search rankings if your site isn’t optimized for mobile

This list, however, pales in comparison to the benefits mobile-first design can bring.

Website Elements for Mobile

Just like for the desktop, mobile sites have many of the same elements – logos, headers, text, and footers. Each element, broken out below:

1. Text

For mobile, ensure your text is large enough to be read. Having to pinch, zoom, then pinch again for the reader is annoying. Size your text according to percent, versus pixels or points, to be sure it’s optimized for mobile-first web design.

2. Buttons

Pay attention to the font size for buttons, too. Another issue to look out for is making sure the clickable area isn’t too close to other elements on the page.

3. Images

These should be scaled via aspect ratio. Common ratios are 16:9 or 4:3. This way your image aspect ratio will remain the same, even as it scales larger on a mobile device.

4. Image Sliders

Think of carousels, typically found on homepages. Keep the text located on the slider in proportion to the size of the image. If the main message being conveyed is really important, then you can remove the text altogether.

All of the mobile-first web design best practices called out on this list may seem like common sense until you land on a website that hasn’t implemented them!

Content First

Given screen size limitations, mobile lends itself to a design that is very content-focused. After all, that is why the user is likely hitting your website in the first place.

Web designers for mobile should keep in mind that mobile users likely require a different context versus desktop.

In the business, this is called planning for different “user scenarios.”

Mobile-first web design also allows for breakpoints that fit better around the content. Put another way, the content fit is more snug on the screen versus desktop.

Speaking of content, marketing companies like Buzzhive Marketing in Sacramento can produce quality mobile-first content if you need help filling out your blog.

SEO on Mobile

The same way that designing websites for mobile is now standard — so is making sure your website can be found via the search engines with Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Google acknowledges they are rapidly moving towards using the mobile site as the primary means for indexing websites on its search engine.

Here are some SEO best practices, for mobile-first web design:

  • Page speed — this is even more important on mobile since fast connection speeds are not always guaranteed
  • JavaScript/CSS — Mobile devices a long time ago couldn’t support them, so they were blocked by operators of websites. With this no longer the case, Google wants to see these used on mobile-friendly sites
  • Flash — a big no-no
  • Pop-ups — See above point on Flash
  • Local search — if relevant for a specific locale, make sure data like name, and address is embedded in the site

SEO is a science of sorts, and the list above is the tip of the iceberg as it relates to getting your site listed on the search engines. We recommend hiring a marketing agency to handle the heavy lifting.

Wrapping Up

With mobile usage overtaking desktop computer usage it is more important than ever to stay on top of the latest trends for mobile-first web design.

The good news is an experienced marketing agency can help create a great mobile-first experience and one that is found on the search engines as well.

To see the latest and greatest mobile design news and information, click over to Buzzhive Marketing and check out their blog.d

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