In recent years, internet traffic has become increasingly more mobile. People are checking email from their phones, doing their shopping as they watch the game, streaming the latest binge-worthy series, and researching goods, services, and businesses in the carpool pickup line. It’s estimated that 62% of mobile users access the internet from their mobile phones, and traffic from mobile devices accounts for roughly 48% of all internet website traffic (Quora Creative, January 2019). Digital marketers and web developers have answered the call by making the website experience more user-friendly for mobile users, but how a company goes about doing so can vary.
In general, there are two ways of designing a website to accommodate mobile traffic: 1) creating a website that is mobile responsive, and 2) designing a website mobile-first.
Often these terms are confusing for the small business owner who is trying to decide which route is best. They might seem to be one and the same. But in reality, there is a substantial difference between these two approaches to website development, and making the right choice will impact user experience, search engine optimization, site load time, and more.
Mobile-responsive websites are designed on desktop first, with layouts that fit a larger, wider screen and elements that rely on a keyboard and mouse to navigate. Have you ever visited a site on your mobile phone only to find that you can’t click on links from the main navigation menu without awkwardly dragging your finger across the dropdown list? Half the time you lose sight of the menu before you’ve had a chance to lift your finger, and clicking on the element you’d like to select is nearly impossible. This is a perfect example of a site that was designed to be mobile responsive.
When a site is originally designed on desktop and then responds to mobile by shrinking in size, it’s essentially creating a workaround for instead of adopting new technological standards. Search Engine Watch explained it this way:
“Let’s say you need a train. You want a fast one, one that can get you from Paris to London in two hours. (Ignore, if you will, that this train already exists.) Would you build a coal train, then convert it to a high-speed diesel-electric train? No, that would be a ridiculous waste of time and resources, particularly since the high-speed train can run on standard tracks.”
Mobile responsive sites also take longer to load because they often contain more content and more complex coding. This is a problem, since the quicker your site loads, the better user experience it is for a mobile user. 46% of consumers say that slow-loading sites make them click away immediately, and sites with load times of 5 seconds or less result in 70% longer sessions (Unbounce, December 2018). Longer load times can also negatively impact your search rankings.
Mobile-first design is just that: websites that are originally designed to fit and function on a mobile device, and then coded to respond to a desktop monitor as necessary. This often means a simpler, more concise layout, incorporating touch-screen elements like click-to-call and touch-screen navigation, and condensing information into long-form pages rather than requiring extra clicks in the user journey. All of this results in a faster load time and a more positive mobile user experience.
But what’s more, Google began rolling out mobile-first indexing in 2018 – when determining the content and value of a page (and therefore its relevance in search), Google’s bots will scan the mobile version of any given page first. If your site doesn’t function optimally on mobile, it’s likely to see a decrease in search results. Furthermore, Google places higher value on mobile-friendly elements like long-form content because they provide a more seamless experience. Search engines want searchers to get the most comprehensive and authoritative information easily and without friction, and long-form pages fit the bill: they allow users to scroll rather than click and load several pages in succession.
As a team of search engine optimizers and digital marketers dedicated to getting your website in front of as many potential customers as possible, Page 1 Solutions understands the need to design mobile-first. In fact, Page 1 Solutions exclusively designs mobile-first. We recognize the importance of giving your audience the best experience possible so they become customers and loyal fans for years to come.
To speak to one of our consultants about mobile-first design, call Page 1 Solutions at 303-233-3886.