Web design for e-commerce isn’t just about following trends but also about adding convenience. The easier it is for users to avail of your services, the better you will be for it. On which note, your website should be equally easy to navigate for users of any device, and having a mobile-first design is important to ensure that.
When optimizing your websites for mobile, tablet, or computer users, you need to make sure no design works better for one medium than another. As online stores and services increasingly rely on mobile users to stay in business, how do you achieve that?
Mobile-first web design refers to when a website or any other online service is designed for peak functionality on mobile devices, followed by Desktop.
As a concept, mobile-friendly website design isn’t a new concept, but it’s definitely a recent development. Before that, the prime method of curating websites was Desktop-first. That is understandable since most of the first internet gadgets were personal computers.
Even today, quite a few websites prioritize laptop users over those who prefer mobile phones. But at the moment, there is an important downside to designing websites primarily for Desktop use.
The larger screens of computers provide much more space for content to be displayed for use. But when the same content or website is opened on a mobile phone there might be some problems.
Firstly, some websites are entirely incompatible with Android, iPhone, and other mobile operating systems, and you must therefore use an app to access them. Other times, a great deal of content can be difficult to display on smaller screens. If you shrink it, it cannot be read. But leave it as it is, and the page becomes too crowded.
These are just some of the reasons why websites, and especially online businesses for reasons we’ll soon discuss, must strive for mobile-optimized design.
In web design for mobile users, the word “responsive” is thrown around quite a bit, but what precisely does it mean? And also, how does it relate to mobile-first?
When we talk about responsive design or a responsive website, it basically means that content is created to adapt its layout according to the device it is being used on. So, if a website is curated for computer use, it can be modified to “respond” by changing its layout when used on a smaller screen.
On paper, that sounds like a wonderful technique, but that depends on what you’re talking about. In a sense, mobile-first is a form of responsive design. But contrary to popular belief, the two are not interchangeable.
For one thing, a lot of websites fail here by designing sites for larger screens first. But even if they are responsive, their mobile layout might be inferior to the computer version. Quite often, the responsive design actually makes for a worse web experience for phone users than even a non-responsive, Desktop-first one.
Why Websites Should Prioritize Phone Users
Rather than focus entirely on “responsive” capabilities, websites should strive for a different approach. There should be a distinction between the top-down and bottom-up approaches in content creation.
Very simply, bottom-up design involves taking specific ideas and joining them into one. Desktop-first design is an example of that as you’re taking content for big screens and making small alterations so that it fits on a smaller screen.
This seems like a useful plan of attack, but in reality, it doesn’t actually address the larger issues and instead just focuses on easy fixes that benefit developers and not their customers. As we pointed out, fitting into a smaller screen doesn’t make a website mobile-friendly.
A more productive mode of action is through top-down design. Here we look at the big picture and divide it into manageable portions leading to easy solutions. This makes things more convenient for customers.
By optimizing a website for a smaller screen first, making it compatible with larger devices is much easier to achieve. This is just one reason why mobile-first site design needs to be adopted just about everywhere.
Computers might have been our first gateway to the world of the internet, but right now they are anywhere but at the top. Recent reports show that more than 90% of active internet users around the world prefer mobile devices over laptops and computers.
This doesn’t mean that the Desktop is a thing of the past, though. What it means is that, given these facts, online businesses need to prepare for a market where phone users make up the majority of the target audience.
So, if a business fails to make its website equally viable on mobiles and laptops, its chances of survival aren’t good. And as we’ve discussed, the mobile-first model is the way to achieve that.
Even if we discount statistics, the fact that mobiles are more popular is in fact still based on logic. Being more portable and usable without a keyboard and mouse has led phones to be the method of choice for internet use.
But more than that, for a lot of quick everyday activities like checking the time, weather, social media, news updates, calendars, etc., phones offer much quicker and more accessible service. As such, their popularity makes sense. You don’t have to wait several minutes for an iPhone to load.
From a business point of view, it doesn’t end there. Streaming videos and music, reserving tables at restaurants, ordering food, online shopping, booking flight or concert tickets, seats, or hotel rooms are just a few of the things that people do exclusively on their phones.
For that reason, many of these services implement mobile-first design for their websites. With that in mind, Desktop-first isn’t just inconvenient for users, but a competitive faux pas on the business end of things.
The fact that people are eschewing larger screens in favor of mobiles hasn’t gone unnoticed by search engines. With more network users on phones than on the internet, it made sense for Google to start a website indexing initiative for mobile servers. And starting mid-2018, they did just that.
So, on top of the fact that mobile-based online services enjoy more overall exposure, they will now be prioritized by search engine crawlers too. This will enable web services and online stores to enjoy higher rankings, leading to more traffic, more responses, and more revenue.
The need for investing in mobile-first for e-commerce sites is, at this point, a no-brainer.
How to Optimize Websites for Mobile Users?
To curate and optimize a website for mobile use, all you need are the right tools. Content management systems like WordPress offer the resources to create web pages with a mobile-friendly design.
Along with screen dimensions, mobile websites have to deal with other shortcomings of mobile phones. These include
- Less space for data
- Limited bandwidth
- Less powerful software
All of these things must be kept in mind when adapting content for iPhone or Android devices. By adhering to some key practices and adopting the right methods, you’ll find that your website is perfect for use on all devices, including phones.
As we’ve said above, mobile-friendly website development involves web design that keeps its integrity regardless of screen size.
Therefore, when choosing a theme for your online business, select one that either works equally well on all screens or has top-down responsive features. If not, you might have to modify it for mobile sites to make sure that it works just as well.
This works well with newer themes as they have been updated for responsiveness. If you’re using an old, Desktop-optimized theme, you’ll need to change it. WordPress offers a wide range of options that work for different devices.
As the screen shrinks in size, so does the room for content. But rather than retrofit your text, files, and graphics, you need a different approach.
Along with the screen, mobile content gets less user attention since they’re visiting pages in quick bursts for shorter timespans. Therefore, it doesn’t make sense to add bucketloads of text or annoying pop-ups when there is no room to fit them and no time to read them.
Limit your phone content to a few pieces of text as possible and simple yet engaging graphics. And lose GIFs and other files that take too long to load with the slower bandwidth. In mobile design, less is more.
After getting rid of excess mobile elements, how do you know which content is needed? For e-commerce sites, some of the important mobile content includes things that need more or less attention.
If your website has a call to action, graphics, or other elements that are important for branding, make sure to arrange them so they are prominent on the screen. Otherwise, you can create lists or drop-down menus which allow you to fit more content in less space so it is easy to navigate.
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3. Internet Speed
Smaller devices might be more convenient, but they are less good at processing the same amount of large data as a tablet or laptop. That’s a problem because studies show that even if a website is slow to load by a few seconds, it will lose traffic. For e-commerce and business sites, that is not an option.
With mobile sites, slow speeds are often related to high bounce rates, which are the number of page visitors who leave, or “bounce”, without engaging. Steps to manage this issue include compressing image files, optimizing scripts, and speed-enhancing plugins, like those compatible with WordPress.
4. Improve Search Rankings
As Google announced its intentions to crawl and index mobile-friendly sites, other search engines will likely follow suit. In the meantime, a key part of mobile-optimizing your site is to make sure that it can be detected by Googlebot. Steps to do that include
- Keeping track of mobile-friendly keywords
- Make sure that your mobile and Desktop metadata are consistent
- Place ads strategically
- Improve content structure (as we discussed earlier)
Along with that, Google must be able to actually view your site. Hence, make sure to
- Check robots tags for consistency
- Disable URL-blocking to allow crawling
5. Add Plugins
An excellent solution for mobile users is to simply use plugins that add mobile-savvy features to web pages. Implementation might take time, but the results are in-depth and quite fantastic. Of course, plugins aren’t always free, and it is often suggested to use them as a last resort.
If you’re interested, however, WordPress offers quite a few options worth looking into. Though if you’re finding it difficult to decide, Google has recommended the WPTouch plugin as a particular favorite. It helps provide all the provisions that we have discussed above in one simple solution.
It’s available in both free and paid versions, with the latter offering vibrant themes and other handy features and add-ons in affordable packages for businesses.
6. Test Your Mobile Site
Once you’ve optimized your site for mobile users, you need to double check that it works before making your pages public. If your content is irregular, your site won’t load, or any other technical difficulty remains, it’s better to fix it before your site debut becomes an awkward experience for everyone.
You can look for testing tools and demo sites where you can check your WordPress site’s mobile functionality and assess where changes are needed. Alternatively, you can use Google’s own mobile-friendly test or just use the website on your own before making it public.
Outsourcing – The Gift that Keeps on Giving
Getting your website mobile-ready is crucial, but as you’ve seen, there are a lot of things that need to be done. Many business owners don’t have the time, resources, or tech-savvy to engage in such an undertaking when they have a store or service to oversee.
Fortunately, services like WeLoveWeb provide all manner of e-commerce and web design solutions to small and medium-sized enterprises, including mobile-friendly design. With their help, all it takes is an affordable fee to get your online business prepared for a mobile-first age.
In recent years, web consumption has entered a new era where phone users now outnumber PC consumers by a considerable margin.
As such, improving the web experience for phone users is now a top priority for major industries like streaming, e-commerce, and appointment-based services, to name a few. Fortunately, as Google now caters to mobile-first SEO, WordPress users have plenty of time and resources to adapt to these changes.