Newsletter #156 Build Your Mobile Version First

Posted by Alex on 26 March 2013

By 2014 (next year) the number of people accessing the Internet on their mobile device will have overtaken those accessing the Web on their desktop machine (see graphic).



According to Clicktale, 22% of all Website visitors are on mobile devices, and perhaps most importantly, 40% of your Website visitors visit on a mobile device first! 90% of people who own multiple devices will move between devices, potentially looking at your website first on their mobile then on another device such as a desktop computer.

People viewing on mobile devices are normally looking for the most basic information. What you do, where you are and how they can contact you.

Viewing a full Website on a mobile phone can be frustrating because of the need to scroll as well as zooming in to read information. Modern Websites designed for the desktop or laptop also tend to include higher level media content such as videos or large graphics that make downloading time longer. In contrast, design for mobile devices needs to incorporate:

  • Being thumb friendly, easy to navigate and have quick load times. Users have become used to using their thumbs to navigate
  • Buttons need to be big, simple and easy to press and navigation needs to be unobstructed & simple
  • Images that are pared right back in size or eliminated totally so they don't get in the way or take too long to download
  • Fewer words. If you know that text needs to be concise on the Web, then text on mobile versions needs to be taken to the next level; ultra-concise. You must always bear in mind that mobile users are often in multitasking or 'one-eye' situations like watching TV, standing in a line or during a lull in some other activity.

The key to having a great Web presence is to build your mobile website version first, then move onto the wider screen versions. The reasons?

  • Designing for mobile will focus your thoughts on what is really important to show on the Web
  • Slimming down your content makes you think in terms of what your potential customers, in particular, want to see rather than the traditional inward-looking content that blights many current Websites
  • It's more efficient to build up from the critical stuff, rather than pare back from lots of content - you might cleanse something important by mistake


One of the new trends in Website design is the use of responsive design. In simple terms, responsive Web design uses media queries to work out what resolution of device it's being viewed on and changes the site's behaviour. This is instead of building a separate version for every device or groups of devices out there. The benefits are obvious - one Website for all devices.

As the use of mobile devices accelerates, you can't ignore the obvious - your site must look OK on the browsers that your customers are using. Increasingly that's a mobile browser.