The Trends Driving Success in Mobile-First Design

Lisa Brown, VP, Experience Director

For the better part of two decades, technologists, marketers, and business leaders alike have been declaring each year as “the year of mobile.” Some even went as far as to say that desktop web development was dead. But even as those extremisms have gone out of style, you’re still left to answer a critical design question—do you embrace mobile-first design or not?

In recent years, mobile web traffic has overtaken desktop in terms of volume. One study found that 57% of all web traffic comes from smartphones and tablets. Not only that, but in the wake of growing mobile usage, Google made the shift to mobile-first indexing. Now, Google is increasingly using mobile versions of web content to index pages as opposed to traditional desktop versions.

These facts, among others, have made mobile-first design impossible to ignore. But what exactly does it take to succeed in mobile-first design? As you optimize your website for mobile, keep these three trends in mind.

1. Minimalism in Content

There’s plenty of research touting the benefits (both for SEO and for brand awareness) of long-form content. The point of mobile-first design isn’t to completely do away with long-form content. However, it’s important to think about the role that content plays in a mobile experience.

When customers visit your website on mobile, there’s no tolerance for wasted space. Content has to be front and center and it has to be consumable in a smaller format. This means optimizing web copy and pages according to the value provided to customers—a focus on quality over quantity.

There’s a time and place for both long-form content and short-form copy. Succeeding with mobile-first design hinges on finding the balance and taking advantage of each form’s benefits where appropriate. Maintaining this kind of minimalism in web content can help you craft a user experience that seamlessly leads visitors to your call to action (CTA).

2. Mobile-Friendly Call to Action

Mobile-first design can’t stop short at your homepage. When you pare down content to what’s necessary to drive customers to click your call to action, you need to make sure the CTA link delivers on expectations.

In many cases, you’ll visit a surface-level mobile website only to click a CTA that goes to an unoptimized landing page. Sometimes that might just mean small fonts and misaligned content. But in the worst-case scenario, the lead gen form on your landing page could be cut off, pushing visitors to search for a competitor’s offering instead.

At the very least, mobile-first design must be applied to landing pages so that customer experiences remain seamless as visitors click links across your site. Beyond mobile-first formatting, you can experiment with new types of CTAs that are more usable for mobile visitors. From SMS text messaging to integrated live chat, you can use mobile-first CTAs to eliminate clunky lead gen forms and streamline user experiences.

3. Optimized Site Speeds

Google research found that 46% of people see waiting for pages to load as the worst part of mobile web browsing. It’s actually a miracle that figure isn’t higher considering that the average mobile landing page takes 15.3 seconds to load. When you can optimize web page load times to less than five seconds, you can extend visitor sessions by 70%.

With mobile site speeds playing such a vital role in SEO and customer experience, you need to take advantage of as many ways to optimize load times as possible. A few ideas include:

  • Optimizing Images: If you aren’t paying attention, large image file sizes can quickly bog down mobile website load times. A mobile-first web design will ensure file sizes are in the 50KB to 200KB range as opposed to 1MB or more.
  • Deferring JavaScript: Any JavaScript coding on your website can slow down site speeds. But if you defer JavaScript, you can surface content while heavier code loads in the background.
  • Avoiding Redirects: Web page redirects might be fairly standard on desktop sites, but they can contribute to slow load times on mobile. Every redirect triggers new HTTP request/response cycles, adding precious seconds to page load speeds. Minimizing these redirects can help improve user experiences.

Experience Is Everything

All of these mobile-first trends are part of one general idea—that customer experience is everything  for a modern business. Because the buyer’s journey is increasingly mobile, your website needs to be optimized to provide seamless experiences at every stage of the funnel. From shorter page load times to modern CTAs and optimized content, embracing mobile-first design trends gives you the means of engaging with modern buyers.

But why stop with these trends? Finding unique ways to improve mobile user experiences can help you stand out from competitors and appear more trustworthy to customers. Whether you change your approach to graphic design or find a user-friendly way to organize site navigation, taking innovative steps with mobile-first design can prove invaluable to your business.

However, there’s so much more to a modern customer experience than mobile-first design. If you want to learn more what’s driving the future of customer experiences, download our annual NECXT report