Mobile Forward Design: It’s What’s Now and Next

Scott Dubois / October 2, 2017

Mobile forward design is the next evolution in digital experience. First, there were desktop and mobile experiences – a huge challenge with updates and management occurring on separate platforms. Then, responsive design became the norm, allowing the screen to scale based on any type of device. While responsive is certainly an acceptable way to design, mobile forward design is the future.

Mobile Search Dominates

Globally, the breakdown across devices is at: 52.64% mobile, 42.75% desktop and 4.62% tablet. Consumers use mobile devices to interact with a brand, read content, open emails, engage on social media and make purchases. While most websites have been mobile friendly for some time, the “what’s next” is being mobile forward. Users want fast, easy to navigate websites. It’s no longer a nice thing to have; it’s a must. If your mobile user experience (UX) is bad, customers are unlikely to return. Google estimates that 61 percent of users will not return to a site they had trouble accessing on mobile, and 40 percent of users will then visit a competitor’s site instead.

What Mobile Forward Means to Your Brand

Mobile forward is not responsive design. It means the only website you need is a mobile one; there is no reason to have separate desktop and mobile versions. In fact, this is what Google and other search engines expect. To be mobile forward, the primary version of your site and how it’s designed focuses on the mobile experience. If a user later accesses your site on desktop, it will provide the same experience, just a bit expanded.

App vs. Mobile Forward

Yes, there’s probably an app for that. But, do users want to download it? What’s the benefit to the end-user to download an app that takes up storage on their smart phone? The typical reason to download an app is for repeated tasks or actions like a banking or fitness. Other than these repeatable actions, it’s unlikely apps are used. The mobile website is easier and get lost in the phone clutter than can occur. The 2015 US Mobile App Report finds that the number of mobile browser uses is two times larger than app audiences.

Apps also aren’t as easy to update from a technical perspective as mobile websites. Mobile forward websites are much less expensive to maintain. A major challenge that is not often considered correctly is that an app has to be marketed and promoted properly to gain adoption; something that requires major time and resources.

Smart phone memory constraints and the low quality of most apps, means users download and engage with a fraction of the apps on the market.

Instead, create an app like experience, not an actual app. It’s an excellent way to drive returns and facilitate organic growth. A mobile design should allow a user to navigate and convert easily. When users enjoy a great experience, they’ll come back. As new features or updates are made, returning users will continue to appreciate such a seamless process.

Going All In: What It Takes to Be Mobile Forward

Your site must load quickly. Speed is everything. Three seconds is about the threshold for mobile users before they become frustrated. So you’d better have this fine-tuned.

Your SEO and pay-per-click strategies must focus on mobile-forward. Google’s algorithm now prioritizes mobile-first sites and PPC campaigns. By using their mobile campaign options, your campaign is visible and more appealing to your audience.

One experience on all devices matters, because many first visits begin with a mobile search. Currently, almost 60 percent of all searches are completed on mobile. The most sophisticated brands aren’t thinking mobile first design, they’re thinking mobile only. Desktop experiences are an expanded version of mobile, not a different one.

If the mobile site offers a promotion or allows for a way to sort or filter results, then that same experience must transfer to desktop. Users won’t tolerate “different” experiences across platforms. Otherwise, customers will be confused. This turns into an expectation gap, wherein what they thought they’d find on the site wasn’t what they encountered. You’ll let your customers down every time, and they’ll move on to another site.

One of the other great benefits to mobile forward is reduced costs for development and coding since you’re creating a single experience. It takes fewer resources to update and improve the platform. New functionality, campaigns and capabilities become easier to execute.

Mobile Forward is Customer Driven

Your customer is what’s driving the functionality and experience of your mobile website. Take a close look at your specific data to understand sessions on mobile versus desktop. Then look closely at the differences between your mobile and desktop experience. Determine how the experience can be merged to create a mobile forward design approach. Be prepared and proactive in updating and upgrading your mobile experience. Your visitors will thank you.

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