Mobile First Web Design
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Mobile-First Web Design: Your Complete 101 Guide With Examples

In 2021, there were 7.1 billion mobile users around the globe. This number is expected to reach 7.49 billion in 2025.

With half of the web traffic worldwide coming from mobile devices, it’s time to consider whether your web design is prepared to meet the challenges of this new reality.

Today, mobile-first web design is equally important for both B2B and B2C businesses to meet customers’ expectations across all devices.

We’ll share everything you need to know about mobile-first web design, compare it to responsive web design, share best practices and help you decide if it’s right for your brand.

Plus, our web design experts at Digital Silk will analyze five examples of renowned brands that are using mobile-first web design to their advantage.

What Is Mobile-First Design?

Mobile-first web design is a website design strategy that begins with sketching and prototyping a website for mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets. Then, it moves to scaling the design to larger laptop and desktop screens. 

Mobile-first web design prioritizes the most important aspects of the website and its content, then adapts the layout to larger screens, creating a more unified user experience across channels and devices. 

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Mobile-First vs. Responsive Web Design

The terms “mobile-first” and “responsive design” are sometimes used interchangeably, although these concepts are not at all the same.

In fact, to some extent, they are the exact opposite.

In a responsive web design (RWD) approach, websites automatically adjust to the screens of any device. Unlike mobile-first, RWD prioritizes bigger, desktop screens, then scales down to mobile phone and tablet screens.

Used predominantly when the majority of internet traffic came from desktop devices, this approach is optimal for websites that are content-heavy.

 Responsive Web Design and Mobile First Web Design - differences

Which Types Of Businesses Should Consider Mobile-First Design?

So how do you decide if a mobile-first design is right for your brand?

Let’s say you are in the tech business and your customers view, discuss and compare your products online over a cup of coffee, during a conference break or while walking with friends in the park.

When they order your products, they regularly track the delivery schedule using their phone or tablet.

Or, let’s say you are in the media industry and want your customers to stay updated with the latest news at any given moment.

If your target audience is likely to use mobile devices to view your website and engage with your brand, then mobile-first might be right for you. Here’s what you should consider, to help you make your decision:

  • The products and services you offer
  • The demographics of your target audience, including age, occupation and hobbies
  • The devices your audience uses to engage with your brand
  • If a large portion of your target audience uses mobile devices or tablets to engage with your brand while on the go, it’s likely time to switch to mobile-first.
Looking to create a mobile-first website? Let us give you ideas!

5 Mobile-First Web Design Examples

Let’s take a look at five mobile-first websites with great design with impressive mobile usability and excellent UX.

1. Adobe

Screenshot from Adobe's website homepage
[Source: Adobe]
Adobe’s mobile website welcomes you with an explosion of color to display the software they offer for graphic design, video editing, photography and more. The homepage loads within three seconds, proving that the vivid graphics do not hinder the mobile site whatsoever.

The brand’s message is short, simple and offers plenty of whitespace for readability, along with a standout blue CTA for quick conversion.

The simplistic design and ample white space continue as you scroll, staying true to the best practices of mobile-first design.

2. Apple

Screenshot from Apple website's homepage
[Source: Apple]
Tech giant Apple’s mobile website loads in about two seconds, giving users what they want in an instant. Clean and sleek, just like the products they offer, the brand’s website relies on high-quality imagery and minimalistic text set against a white, breathable background.

The famous Apple typography encourages easy readability while CTAs in blue encourage the user’s next step: become more educated about the product or become its proud owner.

3. Etsy

Screenshot from Etsy's website homepage
[Source: Etsy]
As an eCommerce website, Etsy caters to buyers of vintage and handmade goods. From the moment you land on the mobile website, which also loads in under three seconds, you have the choice to explore a variety of product categories or search for a specific item, through a simple and organized layout.

Each image is clickable, allowing the user to travel quickly to the preferred category with a simple tap.

The log-in icon and the shopping cart icon remain in the top right corner as the user scrolls, maintaining simple navigation.

4. Evernote

Screenshot from Evernote's website homepage
[Source: Evernote]
Loading in about two quick seconds, Evernote’s mobile-first website is an exercise in minimalism, with a satisfyingly clean mobile user interface. A white background, black typography and green CTAs combine to create a user-friendly, simple design.

In addition to the direct, to-the-point messaging, a sticky hamburger menu adds to the simplicity for easy navigation.

5. Tesla

Screenshot from Tesla's website homepage
[Source: Tesla]
American automotive and clean energy giant, Tesla, has a sleek and modern website that loads in under three seconds on mobile.

Vivid imagery in bright colors, along with oversized typography and bold CTAs, invite the user to explore Tesla’s offerings. The breathable design radiates freedom, like Tesla models themselves.

The Main Principles Of Mobile-First Web Design

Defining what the user needs to see and understand as soon as they land on your website is the first step of considering content for a mobile-first design.

Let’s take a look at five essential principles of mobile-first web design.

1. Keep The Design Simple

The simplicity of mobile-first web design is based on the way smartphone owners use their fingers to navigate. Being less precise than when using a mouse or touchpad, mobile device holders rely on easy reach and fully-optimized UX on smaller screens.

When designing a mobile-first website, reduce the use of extra functionality and elements and focus on the essentials. This will make the user experience more valuable and enjoyable.

[Source: Kissmetrics]

2. Use Bold And Functional CTA Buttons

Poorly designed call-to-action buttons on mobile sites could result in missed leads and sales due to usability issues or lead-gen forms that are impossible to fill out.

Your CTAs should grab your visitor’s attention and turn your prospects into customers. Every piece of content on your website should work toward this conversion point.

[Source: Kissmetrics]

3. Use Mobile-Friendly Graphic Design

Well-designed websites are deemed trustworthy and easy to use.

Consider graphic design for your mobile-first approach. Mobile users are more likely to leave a website if they find distractions or poor design.

Companies that put emphasis on graphic design outperform businesses that are not focused on design by 200%.

4. Prioritize Your Contact Information

Unlike desktop and laptop users, mobile users are looking to find information quickly and are not prone to browsing your website for longer periods of time.

Keep your contact information short and visible at all times to ensure the two-way communication with your users.

5. Speed Up Your Mobile-First Website

Mobile users are more likely to get distracted and bounce from your website, if it is too slow. Statistics show that 40% of users will leave a website, if it takes longer than three seconds to load.

Loading speed is key to visitors’ engagement and retention. In addition, it is a strong Google ranking factor.

Looking to grow your brand online? Let us give you ideas!

Mobile-First Web Design Best Practices

Now that we have discussed the principles of mobile-first web design, we can share Digital Silk’s professional recommendations how to approach each task and what to focus on.

To Achieve Simplicity:

  • Reduce the number of links in the main navigation menu
  • Ask fewer questions
  • Use less fields in Contact Us, Subscribe, Purchase and other eForms
  • Keep the number of website pages to a minimum
  • Increase the white space to improve visibility
  • Use wide borders and clean lines
  • Use simple fonts that are large and legible
  • Use maximum two columns to separate the content on a single page

To Create Mobile-Friendly CTA Buttons:

  • Use more than one CTA on a page leading to one specific conversion point
  • Use enticing and concise copy on CTA buttons to motivate users to click on them
  • Make your CTAs big and use vivid colors so they stand out
  • Place the first CTA above the fold so users see it immediately without the need to scroll down

To Boost Graphic Design Effect:

  • Use light and dark contrasting color schemes
  • Embrace minimalism in imagery and copy
  • Use vivid high-quality images optimized for mobile speeds
  • Opt for bold shapes and clean lines

To Highlight Your Contact Information:

  • Display your business contact information prominently on your mobile site to encourage customers engage with you and boost conversion
  • List your company phone number, email, locations and working hours
  • Include a live chat to provide an additional immediate point of contact

To Improve Your Mobile Website Loading Speed:

  • Enable browser caching
  • Load your content above the fold
  • Optimize images by cropping them to the right size and saving them for web
  • Enable image compression to reduce their size
  • Use gZip compression to reduce file sizes
  • Minify HTTP by:
    • Streamlining the number of elements on page
    • Combining multiple CSS files
    • Putting scripts at the bottom of the page
  • Minify CSS and JavaScript by removing unwanted code, files and scripts and deleting extra spaces and line breaks
  • Minimize redirects
  • Use mobile CDN to improve latency
  • Update the PHP version
  • Disable unused addons and plugins
  • Use premium hosting services, if possible

Mobile-First Web Design Process

At Digital Silk, we follow our website design process to the T to ensure your website provides enjoyable user journey, reaches your target audiences and conversion goals and ranks high in search engines.

How do we achieve this?

Here is a glimpse at our eight-step process to develop a custom mobile-first website design for your brand.

1. Digital Strategy

We get to know your industry, user personas, competitors, project goals and scope. We craft a thorough digital strategy, create a timeline and plan a reporting schedule.

2. Conversion Funnel And User Journey Planning

We plan and develop your website’s sitemap and informational architecture to identify the messaging at each stage of the conversion funnel and the pathways guiding your users to the key conversion points.

3. Wireframing

We create wireframe to show you how your website will look like across various devices.

4. Design

Once you approve your website wireframes, we create a custom UI design that reflects your brand’s unique identity and values through colors, logos, typography and other branding elements.

5. Development

Now comes the time when our expert backend and frontend developers build up your website following detailed specification documents and industry best practices.

6. Quality Assurance

Our QA pros check your site’s features, functionalities, speed and SEO details to ensure flawless operation.

7. Website Launch

Time for launch! We load your website on the server and push it live. To make sure everything runs without interruptions, we secure needed updates, security patches and more.

8. Maintenance

As an additional service, we offer maintenance packages to guarantee smooth and secure website operation at all times.

Looking to create a mobile-first website? Let us give you ideas!

Is Mobile-First Web Design Right For You?

To decide if you need a mobile-first web design, you should do a thorough research based on numbers and industry insights.

What to consider?

Your Location

82.2% of the population in the U.S. used a smartphone in 2021 while other countries with high penetration rates of smartphones included UK, France, Germany, Italy and Russia.

Your Industry

The most popular mobile internet activities worldwide in 2017 included using email (59%), accessing social media (54%) and watching videos and movies online (52%). These activities were closely followed by reading news (48%), online shopping (43%) and software downloads (42%).

The entertainment apps with the most uploads for the same period included Netflix, Tencent Video and Amazon Prime Video.

Your Audiences Age

95% of adults in the U.S. between 18 and 49 own smartphones. In 2017, 67% of the mobile U.S. shoppers in the age group between 25 and 34 years stated they purchased something via a mobile phone.

Wrapping Up On Mobile-First Web Design

Mobile-first web design can be a game-changer if your consumers tend to check products and services on their mobile devices. This can ensure a smooth user experience in line with their needs and expectations combined with increased conversion and loyalty.

The main principles of mobile-first web design include:

  • Simplicity of design
  • Graphic design effect
  • Mobile-friendly CTAs
  • High speed
  • Prioritized contact information

To decide if you need a mobile-first web design, you should conduct analysis on your user personas’ age, needs and buying behavior.

Working with a fill-service digital agency like Digital Silk will ensure you approach the process professionally, look into your industry, competitors and opportunities and create a mobile-first web design to generate traffic, improve visibility and boost conversion.

Ready To Design A Market-Leading Website?Request A Quote!Tell us about your project and let our experts give you recommendations.

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    Mathew Reeves is an Experienced in Online Marketing, Mathew writes for business and for pleasure, mostly focused on digital trends and web design. A huge people person, passionate about travel and books. Allergic to poor internet connection.

      2022 Digital Trends Guide