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The next generation of users is upon us. Their context is  touch, mobility and speed. For better or worse they are mobile-first.

Jon Fux

Statistics say that it is 77% likely that you’re reading this on your mobile phone. Which is a big statement to make because the internet was commercialized in early 1980s while mobile internet came to life only around 2005? In only around 13 years this brainchild of Martin Cooper has hijacked more than three fourth of the internet consumers. Mobile phone users themselves have increased by 67% in the last 12 months.

Those are some staggering figures, right? But it won’t take a Rocket Scientist to find out the reasons behind this. Growth in online content in forms of social media, multimedia and white papers has attracted customers to own the latest handsets which have led to competition among manufactures which further led to advancements in technology and cheaper prices. And this cycle continues. The 1st generation internet users are all on mobile.

All said and done, for any organization that primarily depends on the internet for its consumer interaction and dealing, need to prioritize a Mobile First design in order to stay relevant in the market and to expand whilst retaining its customer base.

Why Mobile

In addition to the above few, here are some more interesting numbers that don’t lie and can help UI/UX designers understand the consumer behavior.

Almost 100% of 1st Generation internet users are on mobile.

Mobile internet usage has seen a great boom mainly because of cheaper handsets and connectivity in even the rural areas and undeveloped areas in South Asian countries, South American countries and Africa. Those who do not live in the cities and are not very well off financially also have access to a decent and very cheap mobile internet connection (keeping in mind that a PC is a lot more expensive than a mobile), which has introduced a huge and completely new audience to the market, and targeting them can give a big advantage to any business.

Mobile devices are projected to reach 85 % of global internet use by the end of 2020

If #1 wasn’t convincing enough, research shows that mobile internet usage is projected to skyrocket in the coming years. This is only foreshadowing that we will experience more “anti-desktop” movements in the future.

It’s compelling that even companies that pride themselves on building great computers are targeting younger demographics and alluding to a world where the computer industry is ripe for disruption. When Apple does something like this, it’s worth paying attention. (Hint: Lesser Macs, More iPhones)

Nearly 8 in 10 customers would stop engaging with content that doesn’t display well on their device

All the traffic in the world doesn’t matter if a website isn’t ready to give that traffic what it’s looking for.

A website that requires pinching and zooming is no longer just a small inconvenience to its users; it’s an automatic “no.”

While responsive design is not yet featured on as many websites as it should be, it’s still out there — and users will search until they find it rather than settling for a bad website.

88% of consumers who search for a type of business on a mobile device call or go to that business within 24 hours

Let’s say you’re on the road and your car breaks down, or you’re at dinner with a friend and want to find a new, exciting place for dessert.

What do these two situations have in common?

1. You’re going to use the internet to find an idea or solution

2. You don’t have a computer on you

As a result, you reach out to mobile internet for help.

So I think that’s enough stats to feed into anyone’s brains the importance of good mobile design .Let’s move on.

The Mobilegeddon

This word that reminds you of a Bruce Willis movie was a landmark update in Google search engines that increased the importance of good mobile design. It gave developers the same panic as the movie Armageddon gave to its characters.

It is Google’s new algorithm that takes mobile-friendliness into account when ranking search results. From 21st April 2015 if your website isn’t friendly to mobile devices then it will fall in mobile search rankings. Basically, websites with better response on mobiles will be given higher priority during indexing. Thus giving mobile friendliness the clear upper hand to attract more customers.
 
At that time, around 50% of all searches were done from tablets or smartphones, meaning that if your website ranked much lower for these users, you will see your traffic go down. And the results of that update continue to affect the traffic on many sites.

Mobile First Is Content First

Content takes center stage in mobile first design. With mobile first design, you have to give your users the content that they absolutely need. Designing this way, with such stringent limitations, forces UX designers to strip any extraneous elements away and focus on the essential.

This is because content is context dependent. A mobile user will have different needs than a desktop user. A desktop user may be looking for more in-depth information or additional features that wouldn’t make sense when it comes to mobile first design.

For example, on a traditional desktop website, you are more likely to see white space whereas collapsible menus and widgets are more prominent in mobile sites. The same can be said of photos — expect full size imagery on a desktop. We’re talking advertisements and promotional material. This sort of imagery will be reduced (or even removed) on mobile websites.

Let’s now look at the differences in some common design language principles and how they all came to be a popular term among web design and the benefits each design method could potentially impact your overall traffic, lead capturing and conversions.

Mobile Friendly Vs Responsive Design Vs Mobile First Design

Mobile Friendly Design

The term refers to a website that allows a user the usability to do just about everything on a mobile device as they would on a desktop, with minimal effects on site loading time and functionality. While it may not always be possible for a mobile version of a website to mirror every single function of the desktop version, a mobile friendly site typically aims to meet the majority of its mobile users’ needs.

For example, while the desktop version of a website might have large hero images on the home page, the mobile version will likely scale down the size of these photos, or remove them altogether. Similarly, while a desktop version of a website might display photos horizontally across the page, the mobile version may display these photos vertically. You will more whites on a PC webpage than on mobiles. The ads are in thin strips or squares in between the content on a mobile , but are much scattered and stay on longer in a PC.When using this web design approach, you may lose some of the functionality a desktop provides, however they typically are functions that are not used as frequently or needed on mobile.

Responsive Web Design

Responsive web design not only encompasses the idea of a mobile friendly design, but is a broader term used to define the designing of web pages for a variety of screen sizes and orientations. When a website is built with responsive design features, the goal is to provide an optimal viewing experience for all users, no matter what type of device they are using. The main difference between the two web design approaches is that mobile friendly design was originally seen as an afterthought or an add-on to an existing website. Responsive web design is a method used from the beginning of the web development process or in a website redesign. Although these terms are fairly similar, it’s important to understand the differences between them when talking about the history of web design and the progression over time.

Mobile First Design Methodology

For a long time, website design first focused on creating the most optimal user experience for the largest screen size a user would be on, such as a desktop screen. Designing for mobile first takes away the age old habit of designing for the biggest possible screen first, and designing for the smallest possible screen first.

With the rise in popularity of mobile website viewing, mobile web design provided an alternative to the main desktop viewing experience. Thus, responsive web design was born as a solution to having to create multiple web designs — one for desktop, one for mobile, etc. The method of designing for mobile first takes this one step further, and is based on the idea that the optimal viewing experience should be on a mobile device vs. a desktop device.

Some aspects of a website that are designed for the desktop simply cannot be recreated on a mobile screen. So why wouldn’t you design specifically for a mobile screen? Anything that can be viewed on a mobile version can also be viewed on a desktop version. Instead of trying to fix the issues that often accompany trying to scale a large screen experience down to a small screen experience, starting with mobile works within the limitations of the smaller screen from the beginning.

BENEFITS OF DESIGNING FOR MOBILE FIRST

I think the benefits should be pretty clear by now. But I’ll still spell them out to keep things complete.

If you want your users to have the best possible experience on mobile and desktop devices, designing for mobile first is the way to go. You won’t have to worry about there being mobile feature constraints.

Finally, taking a mobile first design approach allows you to think about what actually needs to be on your site. Instead of trying to fill in all the whitespace with fluff, you focus on what the user actually wants/needs to complete the action. In order to maintain optimal functionality, you’ll work harder to make sure your site is full of only the most critical content and features necessary to help your business succeed.

Concluding, mobile first is the way to go keeping the current and future scenario in mind, which isn’t likely to change anytime soon.

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