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What is mobile first web design, and why is it so popular?

So, you just started up a clothing business. You run into your friend Sarah in the line at the coffee shop, and she mentions she loves your dress. Perfect, you think, a potential buyer. Quickly the conversation moves to your brand, then your store, and then ooh! There is this top that would look great on her!

Getting out your phone, you type your business into Google, tap on the 'shop' tab… annnd your website crashes. Her coffee is called and she leaves with a friendly goodbye.

Damn. There goes one easy potential customer.

Never before has it been more critical for business owners to be up with technology. There are many ways to advertise and connect with an audience, but one platform stands among the many. Through our mobile phones.

In today's world, smartphones have become a very powerful tool when it comes to marketing. Why? Because as of now 5.11 billion people in the world own a mobile. That's 67% of the global population.

Gone are the days of smartphones being just for talk and text. Mobiles now give business owners access a range of different marketing possibilities, a way to improve customer engagement, and the ability to assist their customers every need instantly.

The popularity surrounding this device has given rise to a new online marketing approach. Instead of focusing online promotional strategies around a fully-fledged website for desktop, this article explains why more and more people are concentrating on the opposite approach; being mobile-first.

What is the mobile-first approach?

Before we jump into why people are choosing it, what does mobile-first mean? Some people may think that mobile-first means developing an app for your business or marketing purely through social media.

But in essence, it is starting product design on the most restrictive device (the mobile), then expanding its features to create a desktop version. Below are some reasons why this is now one of the most popular strategies.

1. Humans favour mobile

The mobile-first approach was designed because of how many of us use smartphones all over the world. Currently, approximately 4.5 billion people around the globe have access to the internet. Out of that, 4.1 billion people access the internet through their mobile.

That means, when going to search for something online, 91% of us will use our phone. No wonder why having a strong mobile presence is so important. Ensuring your website is mobile-friendly means your putting your best foot forward when marketing your business.

2. It suits our personality

If you are sitting there thinking, "what do you mean, of course my website is mobile-friendly, it's on the internet, right?" Well yes, it is, but that does not necessarily mean it works well. Humans have become accustomed to easy navigation, simple designs, and high-quality imaging, so if your website does not deliver in these areas, you are going to fall behind.

Having easy access to an unlimited amount of knowledge has caused humans to become impatience and lazy. According to Google, "for every second of delay in mobile page load, conversions can fall by up to 20%."

So, like in the example at the beginning of the article, you must make sure your mobile presence is up to scratch because customers and clients don't have time for even the smallest of glitches.

3. Mobile design is simple and effective

When smartphones first came out, developers struggled to make websites mobile-friendly. Squeezing a large amount of data and information into a smaller device proved difficult as it ended up causing content degradation and bad user experiences. Reversing this process became the solution which is where we get the term 'mobile-first.'

In order to avoid mobile websites becoming clunky and slow, companies are forced to choose their most important and quality content, because good mobile designs do not leave room for much more. A benefit of this is that when focusing on a smaller amount of relevant information, personalisation is made easier.

Strategies such as using different information for first-time visitors or specific messages for people on based on where they clicked from (email, social media etc), increases a business owners' chance of attracting and keeping loyal customers.

This being said, you should forget about desktop marketing altogether. But in the beginning, the mobile can be a great place to start.

4. Better customer engagement

It is rare to find someone who does not own a smartphone. Usually, most of us are attached to our personal devices 24/7/. This is excellent news for businesses as it allows them to connect with their clients or customers at any time of the day. Consistent interaction is vital in developing relationships and generating brand traffic.

Mobile apps are another great way to connect with a community. They offer owners more control over their marketing approaches, the ability to add personal touches to the user experience, and a chance to provide customers with solutions almost instantly.

5. Google has even jumped on board

Staying up to date, as you expect they would, Google has acknowledged the mobile-first approach. In July 2019, the company announced that mobile-first indexing is enabled by default for all new websites.

Mobile-first indexing means when Google ranks and indexes a website, it will use the mobile version of the webpage first, followed by the desktops. If you have separate URL's for both platforms, it will show the mobile URL to the mobile users and desktop URL to the desktop users. If the biggest search engine in the world has jumped on board, the mobile-first approach must be the way to go.

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With so many benefits, there is no wonder why the mobile-first marketing approach is so popular. If appropriately implemented, a business can create clean, user-friendly mobile websites that are proven to attract clientele. If you want to make sure your customers can find you online quickly, look at how you can start to move some of your marketing strategies to be mobile-first.

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