How is mobile first UX driving change in the digital landscape?

Mobile design isn’t a new strategy, it’s been around for over a decade, but in 2018, with global mobile traffic hitting 52.2% and the introduction of Google’s mobile first indexing, mobile first design is now at the heart of digital strategy best practice.

What’s mobile first?

In the good old days, UX and digital designers used to create a desktop design, then pair it back to fit mobile. As mobile has come to dominate, UX best practice has changed to focus on mobile first. By addressing mobile’s limitations right at the beginning, the essential UX skeleton is created and can be worked up, adding details for more robust, larger formats. This significantly shrinks the initial canvas, but avoids having to make many of the compromises caused by adapting a desktop design to mobile.

What’s best practice for designing mobile first UX?

There are lots of considerations when designing for mobile first, some of the more obvious ones are:

Design for touch not clicks

The change from mice to fingers and thumbs has meant drawing a closer relationship to touch interactions, scrolling, swiping and tapping events. Touch is inevitably more inaccurate than clicks, so functions like ‘delete’, ‘undo’ or ‘empty basket’ need to be kept away from the positive actions to avoid detrimental, accidental taps.

Centralised call-to-action clarity

As hover events are obsolete on mobile, absolute clarity is needed on call-to-actions, both in terms of stand-out and tapability. Centre screen is also where the users eye is naturally drawn, so central CTA’s and critical content typically optimises response rates.

Simple navigation

It’s one of the biggest challenges of mobile design. On desktop, there is ample on-screen real estate to accommodate even the most convoluted navigation, on mobile there is not. The limited space means navigation techniques such as hamburger and slider menus and icon navigation all have to work hard to minimise any complexity and guide the user seamlessly through their journey.

Get to the point content

Content is always going to be king in terms of helping users to make a decision or take an action and of course it’s the primary tool for SEO, but on mobile the content canvas is comparatively tiny and whilst scrolling is accepted, endless scrolling is a big turn off for users. Mobile content needs to get the point and quickly, before users lose interest and simply tap somewhere else.

Simple processes

Using touch to complete form fields can be cumbersome, input fields need to be minimal and processes such as signing up, logging in and checking out should be effortless, as any friction in the mobile experience can seriously impact the drop-out rates.

Lightening load speed

Speed is paramount when it comes to page load time on mobile devices. The faster your website loads, the more likely your customers will be to spend more time on it or return in the future. Although this point is last on our list here, it should be first, as your load time is the very first experience a user has with your website.

What’s the future for digital design?

We are really starting to see how the effects of mobile first design is affecting the online landscape. Logos are changing from serif to sans serif to ensure clarify when rendering on the smallest screens and simplicity and clarity are steering digital design into dangerously homogeneous waters. The challenge now is for UX to create differentiation in the mobile first landscape… but perhaps that’s a discussion for another blog post!

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