Working with web technologies means keeping up with the blistering pace of change.
In the past few years, the web has transformed from primarily desktop to mobile.
The next few years will continue that evolution as more devices and screen types become part of the web. For many organizations, this creates both a problem and an opportunity.
Sites large and small must come to grips with creating a satisfactory experience for all types of devices and screens.
The web is no longer just desktop, tablets, and phones. People are accessing the web on e-readers, plasma TVs, gaming consoles, retina displays, and smart watches. Navigating the myriad of resolutions and devices necessitates modifying our design workflows. The traditional method is designing for desktop first, and adding a responsive version of the site at the end. If we recognize that mobile has become where the majority of people use the web, then designing for mobile first becomes easier.
Quick survey. Raise your hand if you own a smart phone. Now, raise your hand again if your phone is never more than arm’s length from you.
For many Americans, their phone is the first thing they pick up in the morning, and the next to last thing they look at when you go to bed. People use the internet on their phone if they’re sitting on the couch, even if their desktop computer is five feet away.
If your site’s users are starting a search on their phone and completing a transaction later on their laptop or desktop (or vice versa), making sure that the experience is consistent and smooth on every device will help you increase conversions.
This is why I get so frustrated when other designers dismiss responsive or mobile design as inconsequential. When everyone below the age of thirty never knew a world without cell phones, they are definitely buying things on mobile.
Straight Up Facts
A 2012 study showed that 70% of consumers who searched on mobile took action online within one hour.
As of May 2013, 58% of all US adults owned a smartphone, and 42% of US adults owned a tablet. 63% of adult cell phone users used their smart phone to go online, and 34% of them used it as the primary means of going online.
As of January 2014, Mobile app use exceeded that of desktop use. Mobile also accounted for 55% of all internet traffic in the United States. That makes the mobile view of your site the default view.
The rise of mobile is not just in the US, but worldwide. In regions like China, India, and Africa, many people own smartphones and use them to access the web. ComScore reports that 2014 will be the year that mobile use surpasses desktop use worldwide.
How This Affects the Design Process
There’s a huge positive to the rise of mobile: it forces us to evaluate what objectives are the most important. User flow on mobile is a bit different than desktop; reducing options and prioritizing content becomes necessary. Making these decisions in the early stages of the project allows us to take those decisions and create a similar hierarchy for the desktop layout. Another thing it forces us to do is make sure we are putting the emphasis on the message, and not the decoration.
Focusing on content, architecture, and prioritizing objectives comes early in a mobile first workflow. This is a significant priority change from traditional workflow, where the full-screen ornamentation and aesthetics come first.
Web design used to mean building for 800 by 600 pixel screens. Then it meant designing for progressively larger screens. But as a great man once said, “it was a collective hallucination we all agreed upon”. Web design today encompasses a field vaster than a single size of screen.
Traditional web design isn’t dead; it’s only beginning. We will look back in a hundred years at this time as the Golden Age of the Web, before the whole web splintered and fractured into a million divergent devices on billions of screens. In the here and now, fortune favors businesses that go to where their customers are, and that means embracing mobile as the #1 platform.