How to Get Better Mobile Marketing Results by Designing for Mobile First

by GameHouse

In a recent article in Slate, technology writer Farhad Manjoo argues that web developers should stop designing websites for the desktop and start designing with a “mobile-first” design strategy. As mobile devices become more popular and take on a rising share of overall web traffic, people are going to become increasingly impatient with websites that are not optimized for a mobile experience. If your company’s website is hard to navigate on smartphone, or if it contains lots of extra features that makes it slow to load, mobile web users are not likely to stick around long enough to hear what you have to say.

The problem is that most websites today were designed for the desktop, with the idea that people would experience the website while seated at a desk, looking at a big computer monitor. Unfortunately, in the past 5 years, hundreds-of-millions of people worldwide have started to use smartphones and now tablet PCs as their primary way to access the web, but web design has not caught up to this trend.

If your company is trying to get better results from your mobile marketing efforts, a good place to start is to abandon the “desktop first” theory of web design and start designing your websites and user experience specifically for mobile devices.

Here are a few good principles of mobile website design, and ideas on why it matters for your mobile marketing:

  • Avoid clutter and extraneous features. When designing for mobile, you need to take a ruthless “decluttering” approach to your website. What are the features and site areas that your users most need to see? How can you put the most important information at your users’ fingertips, as quickly as possible? Many of the rich graphical features that make a desktop-designed website so visually appealing can be slow to load on a mobile device. Make it as easy as possible for people to access your site with as few bells and whistles as possible. Especially when people are on the go and are considering location-specific purchase decisions, every second counts. You can’t afford to lose people’s attention because your website takes too long to appear on their mobile device.
  • Make the navigation easy and intuitive. Many “desktop designed” websites do not translate well to a mobile device, requiring the user to expand and manipulate the screen just to find the basic navigational features of the website. The best mobile websites need to be designed to accommodate a smaller screen, while still making it easy to find the most important features. Make your links and buttons easy to click with a finger, instead of forcing your users to zoom in on the links they need, or giving them a frustrating experience by accidentally pressing the wrong link.
  • Remember that good mobile web design is good for desktop users as well. Farhad Manjoo makes the case that rather than designing a desktop-friendly website first, and then adapting it for a separate mobile version, companies need to start creating websites that are ideal for the mobile platform first. After all, if it works on a smaller screen, chances are that it will work just as well on a larger screen. For example, high-resolution photos that look good on a tablet or high-def smartphone screen will also look good on a desktop. A simple, easily navigable design will also deliver a great user experience on a desktop. Once you rid your company’s site of clutter and slow-loading code, you might find that your desktop users don’t miss it.
  • Recognize this window of opportunity. In the early days of the web, many solo web designers and amateur developers could create websites that looked better (and worked better) than Fortune 500 companies. Today, there is a similar opportunity for smaller companies and entrepreneurs to outpace the big players online – but with an emphasis on mobile website design. Lots of the biggest sites online, like Amazon, don’t look good on mobile devices.  Many big companies still don’t “get” mobile web design and have not adapted to the new realities of mobile marketing. This is a sign that there is a big opportunity for innovators and small firms to “get it right” with mobile design. If your company’s website looks and performs better than even the biggest brands on the web, you can use your mobile design savvy to stand out from the crowd and build a competitive advantage.

Good mobile website design is the foundation for effective mobile marketing. If you can give your users a better experience every time they visit your site, you’ll be better positioned to stay at the top of their minds when they are ready to make a purchase or download an app. Time is of the essence in mobile marketing – if your website is too slow to load or is hard to navigate or gives users a frustrating experience, they will quickly look elsewhere for the information, products or services that they need. By designing for mobile first – not as an afterthought, but as the primary design strategy for your site – you can help position your company as a leader and innovator in the new world of mobile marketing.

What’s your take on this? How does your company handle the “desktop vs. mobile design” question? What are some of the best (and worst) mobile websites you’ve seen? 

By Ryan Morel

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