Making It Know

Mobile-First Web Design and Best Practices

When people visit your website, they might be accessing it from a laptop, desktop monitor, smartphone, or tablet. With so many different screen sizes, it’s important to think about how to create a website that will look consistent and stay functional for your site visitors—no matter the device they’re using. When you take a mobile-first approach to designing your website, you’ll deliver a responsive user experience (UX)

Learn more about mobile-first design and how to ensure people have a positive interaction with your website.

Understanding mobile-first design

Mobile-first is a design philosophy that delivers a more user-friendly browsing experience by prioritizing smaller screens. It draws on the idea of progressive advancement—building the smallest version first and revising for bigger versions (such as desktop or smart TV) later.

Mobile-first principles encourage UX designers to make the most of limited space by putting the important elements of a website—like site navigation and CTAs—front and center.

Squarespace’s built-in responsive design automatically re-scales content boxes and images so that they fit different screen sizes.

Putting users at the core of design

Enabling people who visit your site using mobile to get to information quickly, easily, and effectively is the core goal of mobile-first design. Convenience is the name of the game, so this is what you should have in mind when designing your site:

  • Include essentials only. Build your site around the content people really want. Cut out distractions so that mobile users are easily directed toward the things they want to see and the actions you want them to take. You do not want them to leave before getting to that point because your site is too busy.

  • Make it pop. Are clickable features easily identifiable? Are your call-to-action (CTA) buttons, for instance, bold, consistent, and easy to spot? Are your iconography, color, and typography choices readable on small screens? A website should look as beautiful on a 5.5” mobile display as it does on a 17.3” laptop display.

  • Keep it nimble. A slow website loading speed can negatively impact your brand or business because it will increase your bounce rate (the number of people who leave your site after only visiting one page) and decrease your average dwell time (the amount of time people spend looking at a page). You can easily increase mobile load speed by compressing your images, reducing your redirects from other sites, and minimizing links to sites with redirects.

Creating a visual hierarchy of content


The order of importance of each piece of content should be obvious on a website designed for mobile first. Mobile users should know where to look and what to click at a glance. You can plan how users will, ideally, read your site in advance.


Start by taking a content inventory—this is a spreadsheet containing all the elements you want to build into your website. Now make a priority list. What do you want your customers to see first, and what do you want to make sure they don’t miss?  


Your logo, for instance, should be the first thing the user sees, as this helps build brand awareness. It can appear at the top of every page, with the titles of those pages immediately following. Make sure CTA buttons are also high up in the visual hierarchy of your website content.


Only develop the wireframe for your site once you’ve worked out this visual hierarchy—it will help to avert having to make major structural changes during the testing phase.


Increasing your SERP ranking


In most cases, the world’s biggest search engines look at mobile versions of websites first—i.e., before desktop versions—when ranking them. This means that making sure your mobile site performs at least as well as, if not better than, your desktop interface is key to boosting your search engine results page (SERP) ranking.


Even though conversions continue to take place more frequently on desktop than on mobile, the majority of brand awareness and engagement occurs on mobile devices. What we can draw from that is that people look for products on their phones and then buy them at home or at work, when back at their desktop computers.


So, keep the pop-ups to a minimum, make the content legible and easy to find, and prioritize important information. This will help to boost your SEO beyond just well-produced, keyword-rich content—making sure as many potential customers see your website as possible.

Still building your website? Learn how to design a landing page.

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