Mobile First is an approach that has been widely discussed by web designers and developers since the creation and popularization of the smartphone. Instead of designing a desktop website and scaling it down to fit to a mobile device, designing Mobile First starts with the mobile website – a bare minimum, no-frills, fast-loading version of your content – and then enhances it for larger screens. This approach can be helpful even when your budget does not include time for optimizing for different screen sizes because it forces you to decide what would be most important for a user that has a slow connection and may not have the time to wait for multiple images or scripts to load. It not only applies to the web designer but is a philosophy that can be used for content creation.
To start your website redesign with the Mobile First approach, focus on the content of your website and not the layout or design. Ask yourself:
“What do I need to communicate and what is the most straightforward way to communicate it?”
With many web users accessing your site from small screens and dealing with slow connection speeds, you want to get your content noticed as quickly as possible without using unnecessary imagery, bells and whistles.
How do you come up with a concise content plan without leaving your mobile users in a content void? Prioritize.
Gather your content
Create a list of the content you would like to include on your website.
- List current pages and pages you would like to add.
- List out featured content areas (such as call-to-actions to include on your homepage or in the sidebars).
- Think about the goals of your target audience:
- What information will they be looking for on-the-go?
- What information might they need while at their desks?
- Will they need to perform a task, such as purchase an item or sign up for an account?
- What information are they currently looking for, based on website visits (use Google Analytics or another tracker)?
Goals are the determining factor for content to keep and feature
Once you have created this list, consider the goals of your target users and your company. You may want to prioritize your list of goals. Think about users on mobile devices – they have a small screen and a somewhat limited Internet connection speed – you may have a matter of seconds to get their attention and funnel them to the information they want before they give up. What is the one goal you hope they will achieve before they leave the website?
For help with your goals, ask yourself these questions:
- What information will users be looking for or what tasks are they hoping to achieve on your website? (example: locations hours, contact info, make a reservation, etc.)
- Are there tasks or information that users aren’t completing or looking for that you would like to drive them to?
Prioritize your content
Assign each content item a priority based on the goals of your target users and your company. If you have content that doesn’t meet a goal, consider removing it from the website completely. The objective is not to trash all of your content but to focus on specific goals and how to meet them. Make sure your users can get to the information they need and quickly. If a piece of content does not satisfy a goal, it will most likely clutter your website and keep your users from accomplishing their goals.
While having clear and easy to view content for mobile is important, don’t misunderstand this to mean that mobile users will not want access to all of the information available to a larger screen. According to a study from Google in 2010
, 93% of smartphone users use their smartphones while at home. There is nothing more frustrating than looking for specific information on a website from your phone only to be stuck on mobile website that has been stripped of content. All information available on your desktop website should be available to mobile users in an optimized layout.
Using the Mobile First approach, think about your mobile users as you’re prioritizing. If your users only have a small screen and a 3G connection to view your site on, what do you want them to see and what are they looking for?
Bring your prioritized list to your web designer who will work with you to optimize the website design to accommodate your list of priorities. Remember to be open about leaving lower priority content on sub pages and off of the home page. Trying to design your website to focus on everything will make it impossible for users to focus on anything.
Start with the most important content and make it as simple as possible. Your designer will start with the mobile website and then can begin discussing other features you’d like to add to desktop versions of the website that would be nice-to-have but don’t necessarily achieve user goals. This will ensure that even those users with slow connections or old browsers will be able to get the gist of what you’re about and achieve their goal for being on your website.