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Mobile-First Design: Development to Testing Stage Guide

With over five billion mobile devices, it makes more sense if the developers follow the mobile-first design.

Mobile-First Design: Development to Testing Stage Guide

A few years back, developers initially used to build a desktop website and later transformed that into a platform-oriented design as per client requirements. But now, the scenario has completely changed where business entrepreneurs raised their focus on having a mobile-oriented design for their brand website. This profoundly increased the demand for the mobile-first website and app design. 

This drastic transformation took place because of the growing number of smartphones, offering optimum functionality we ever thought we would experience. Since the mobile marathon has already gained momentum among the global audience, there should not be any wonders why there’s a high rise in the digital population. 

According to Statista’s 2019 report, there are 3.9 billion unique mobile internet users (and growing) worldwide, up from last year’s 3.7 billion. Another study revealed that 53% of emails are opened on mobile devices

These numbers show that more people are hooked on their smartphones to access the internet—which means, if you successfully ace your mobile development game, you’ll definitely acquire and retain more visitors for your brand website.

But this can be done only when you offer your visitors unified browsing experience. Therefore, you have to optimize, is your website fluid enough to fit your audience’s screens every time they come across your brand? If not, you need to work on it by adopting a mobile-first web design approach. 

Here’s How You Can Optimize Your Website for Mobile

1. Develop a Mobile-First Content Strategy

Whether you’re revamping the company’s old website or building a new one, always remember to create a mobile-first content strategy. This means putting the most important information at the forefront (home screen) and placing extraneous features at the back end.

According to System.ly Founder and CEO Greg Hickman, 74% of consumers don’t stay on a website for more than five seconds and 46% are unlikely to return to the site if it doesn’t work the first time. 

Since it is crucial for you to build the audience’s trust throughout their browsing journey. To achieve this, you need to prioritize the most important content by keeping the mobile target audience in mind. This helps customers attain the best mobile experience and make them stay for long to the website.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Create content with the smallest screen size in mind. Starting small pays off, especially when you want to keep your website clean and simple. If you want to make your content optimized for different screen sizes, it’s best to start by laying out for smaller screens. You can then add other features as you design for bigger screens. This makes it possible for your site visitors to enjoy the same level of mobile experience no matter what device they’re on.

By using plugins and tools, you can make your web design more responsive; allowing your audience to consume your content regardless of where they’re viewing it. For example, in mobile design, the use of collapsible menus and widgets are used instead of the white space and navigation bars found on desktop browsers. 

  • Make sure that your content is mobile-friendly. Is your content readable to your users even without them needing to zoom in? Let your users easily find the information they need. Don’t give them a hard time sifting through blocks of texts when you can create sub-sections to show them what they are looking for.

As well, Use points instead of pixels for the point sizes. You can also use @media CSS queries to make sure font sizes and other design styles are optimized.

2. Adopt a Mobile-First Design

Google ranks websites for mobile-friendliness. This means Google prioritizes websites that are not only relevant to what users are looking for but also easy for them to navigate through using mobile devices. So, to get ranked by this giant search engine, your design has to go through the Google mobile website test.

Here are a few tips:

  • HTML frameworks make optimizing sites for mobile easy. HTML frameworks are being used to develop and mobile-first responsive websites by allowing you to design for both front and back-end user interfaces. As well, these use a grid-based content structure for easy web layouts, allowing you to define sections for your website that will fit different screens while choosing to which of those to show or hide for smaller screens.
  • Optimize your images for speed. By compressing the images for mobile screens, it saves up to 40% image bandwidth, translating to faster loading time.
  • Make your navigations simple. If a complete navigation menu works for your website when viewed using a desktop, that’s not the case for mobile. Get rid of your top navigation and switch to hamburger menu button instead, like this:

As well, keep in mind that mobile interactions are different, with users mostly tapping on links and swiping on the screen. Instead of text links, use elements like interactive buttons and image galleries with swipe gestures.

3. Don’t Forget UI

Want to improve your audience’s mobile experience? Then you need to back your design with user interface principles. It’s useless to create a website without putting your target audiences in mind—how would you know what you will offer them? By applying these basic mobile UI principles, you will be able to take the place of your audience and design it the way you want them to experience your brand on mobile. 

Here are the basic UI principles you have to remember:

  • Structure – Make sure that your web design is organized in a way that all related elements in your website are together and users find it easy to locate everything they need from your pages. Take, for example,  the way Forever 21 designed its website. It looks and feels just the same when viewed on desktop and mobile; you know where to find what you’re looking for even if you switch between devices.
  • Simplicity – Clarity is widely considered the most important job of any interface, and keeping things simple is key in a mobile-first design. People need to quickly see where the important information are, and what possible interactions are available. Confusion has no place in UI, and keeping things simple is a great way to avoid that. 
  • Keep users in control – People tend to have better experiences when they feel like they’re in control. You can place control in the hands of users by taking away unplanned interactions, confusing pathways, and surprising outcomes. Tell them what they can do with surfacing system status, and by describing causation, so your users know what to expect at every turn. 

4. Design with Your Website’s Back End in Mind

Designing your website with the backend in mind is a user-first approach that requires you to identify your audience’s pain points and what solutions your company can offer to provide to address them. That way, you’ll be able to create functionalities that users will find easy to use. Plus, having an API ready on the backend will take out most of the load from your web developers since they no longer have to start from scratch; they just have to grow or modify what’s already there.  

5. Perform A/B Testing 

You won’t always get it right on your first try, and that’s exactly why you need mobile app A/B testing for your mobile-first design.

Here’s how you can do it:

  • Identify which parts of your website needs improvement. Listen to what your users are saying. Which parts of your website are most problematic to users? Which areas can be further improved? You can derive this data from Google Analytics or any other tools with the same function.
  • Create a hypothesis for every problem. Hypothesize why certain elements serve as friction to the UX, and come up with possible solutions on how it can be addressed. Say, for example, you want to know if the icon of your website’s cart has something to do with users not proceeding with checkout. Try changing it and see if your numbers are affected. If not, then you have to test the other parts of your website until you are able to address the problem. List them down then try them one by one.
  • Run the tests across multiple devices. Don’t rely on one device alone since your visitors will be using different devices to access your site. Rather, test websites on mobile (Android and iOS), desktop, laptop or tablet to get accurate performance results. 
  • Stretch the trial period to four weeks. Results are more accurate when more people have tried testing your mobile website.
  • Use A/B testing tools to back your study. Make your job easier with tools that are built for A/B testing like Leanplum or Splitforce.

Companies that Transcended with the Mobile-First Design

1. Apple

Why it’s great: The user experience of Apple’s website is very simple but says so much about the brand—sleek and stylish. Even across their social media accounts, its branding is already apparent on the website, highlighting its purpose of attracting customers to buy their products right at the first look.

2. Google Maps

Why it’s great: The functionality is all there – even providing different routes and ETA for people who choose to take public transportation, drive, bike, walk, and even ride a motorbike. What makes them stand out, is that their mobile website is virtually indistinguishable from their mobile app. Not only does the identical appearance make for a seamless experience, but both also operate at the same speed.

3. SAP

Why it’s great: SAP, as a B2B company, was able to deliver one of the best mobile experiences to users with its content-first website. It’s a hodge-podge of visual and written content, both meant to inform, educate and entertain users with just a few swipes. SAP was also able to minimize clutter on their mobile versions by making easy-to-use navigations—fit for business leaders who are always on-the-go.

It’s A Wrap

Creating a mobile-first approach to designing your website will go a long way but don’t be afraid to adapt what’s new; be afraid to get left behind. 

Did you find this useful? Let us know in the comments section below!

Ayush <span> Creative Head </span>
Written By
Ayush Creative Head

With a strong knowledge of the latest UI/UX design trends, Ayush, the creative head of MobileAppDaily, is curating enticing designs from the past five years. His work helped in achieving the desired user experience for many top brands. Right now, he’s at the helm of designing team and is leaving no stone unturned to devise futuristic designs.

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