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Mobile first web design helps potential customers use your content

If you are involved in Internet Marketing for your company, you know that more and more people are likely to see your marketing on mobile devices. Whether it's your website, your email campaigns, or social media posts, there is a good chance that your customers, and your potential customers, will first see content on mobile. Sometimes, mobile is the only place they will see your content. Therefore, it is critical for you to think about their mobile experience.

The Myth of Mobile Context

When marketers first started paying attention to mobile users, they drew a distinction between desktop users and mobile users. “Mobile” meant harried, distracted, and using one thumb to type. A lot of ink was spilled about how you had to curtail your marketing message for mobile users, because they didn't want to see everything on your “real” website.

While there may have been some truth to this picture when the Internet first came to mobile devices, as those devices have developed, the way people use the Internet on their devices has changed. Now, your users will probably first see your company's email, Tweet, or Facebook post while they are checking a mobile phone. The linked web page gets a quick scan. Later, they read more of your article on their laptop screen, between meetings. Finally, they finish reading it on a tablet while they are sitting on the couch at home. Maybe, for some, the process is mixed up: start on desktop, move to iPad, and finish on Android phone before turning out the light for the night.

So, what if you hide part of your marketing whenever you detect that it was being read on a mobile device? All those people on mobile phones may never bother to pick it back up and read more of it. Outside of a few use cases (such as an airline's flight status), there is no reason to segregate your content based on device used.

Mobile First Web Design

Getting all the same content from your desktop layout to fit on a tablet or phone screen is no easy matter. Sometimes, making it fit means letting that Call-To-Action—that was perfectly placed at the top of your page's right sidebar—get lost below long page content on a single-column phone layout. Often, you'll be tempted to use a mobile style that hides some of that long content on mobile devices. Then, you find out visitors are getting impatient and abandoning your site because it takes too long to download, even though the pages seem short. The icing on the cake: Google penalizes your page rank because you have too much hidden content on your pages. (Google recommends the same content across all devices.)

What's a growing company to do?

One of the most compelling options is to start thinking of your content and design from a mobile-first perspective. That means that you start to decide what content is most important, and how it should be presented, to someone using a small screen and limited bandwidth (that is, a mobile phone). Imagine that's the only chance you'll ever have to impress a visitor and entice her to answer a Call-To-Action. If you treat a page like a digital version of your “elevator speech,” you'll create a better experience for your visitors.

Now, you may be thinking: “…but when the visitor is using a tablet or a big 21-inch monitor, I can use Javascript magic to stuff the page absolutely full of all the content that I would have had anyway, right?” Wrong. If you decided on precisely the elements you needed to make your point, convert a lead, or gain a customer, you don't need to add things just to fill up more space.

You may decide, after careful consideration, that the product shot or diagram that you have may be more effective if it were bigger when the screen allowed. That's an acceptable tradeoff. There are techniques that allow you to use small images, and replace them with larger images on larger devices, like that 21-inch monitor. The advantage to thinking mobile-first is that you don't alienate the growing number of mobile users, who could also be desktop users at some other time, by wasting their time and bandwidth downloading huge images when they don't need them. As web standards advance, it will be easier and easier to enhance the content on more capable devices.

Is This Really Marketing?

You may be saying to yourself, “This isn't really marketing specific, so why don't I just let somebody else worry about this?” The first part of that observation is correct: this applies to all web content, whether its primary purpose is marketing, educational, or even philanthropic. However, as an Internet marketer, do you want others deciding what the most important part of your message is, and which parts show up on mobile devices? A designer or developer may have valuable insights into what works or what is possible, but those sorts of decisions are too important to be made as an afterthought. If you don't start thinking about mobile first, another marketer may beat you to it.

 

 

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