Most people have a smartphone nowadays, and they’re doing a large portion of their online activity on those devices. In fact, mobile devices made up nearly 55 percent of global website traffic in the first quarter of this year. This means that developers need to take a hard look at making their applications mobile-first. In this article, we’ll cover what it means for applications to be mobile-first and how you can design your apps to follow those principles.
Designing apps to be mobile-first
Mobile-first is the process of optimizing your application for mobile use before working on a desktop version. The goal here is to reverse the workflow and scale your application up for desktop, rather than down for mobile. Not only is this easier, but it ensures you have a working, user-friendly mobile version of your application. Mobile-first development keeps you from having to cut key elements that worked well on desktop but aren’t supported by mobile browsers. And as 5G connectivity moves onto the scene, mobile use is likely going to spike even further.
With so many people using their mobile phones as their primary means of web browsing, mobile-first development has seen an increasing number of benefits in recent years.
Last year, mobile devices were used for 61 percent of visits to websites based in the U.S. Mobile-first development offers better usability for this large majority, ensuring that mobile users get the key functionalities of the application. Additionally, developers know that every aspect of their app will work correctly on mobile devices because that’s what it’s been designed for. They don’t have to worry about scaling an important feature down for mobile and hoping it works correctly.
Consider customer relationship management (CRM) software. Because salespeople are heavy users of this technology and they typically don’t sit in an office, mobile-first technology is critical for ensuring they can access their CRM while on the road. Imagine how clunky and frustrating it would be to try to enter client notes on a mobile device using an application designed for desktops.
Easier development process
Mobile-first development is just easier on developers. For one thing, they may not have to design a second version at all because if it works on mobile, it will also be able to work on desktop. If they do decide to build a desktop version, they’ll mostly have to adjust design elements and ensure that the app is presenting all of the features and content correctly; they’re not removing key features and trying to replace them for something that will work with the new version.
Improved site rankings
Google likes sites and applications that are developed with a mobile-first approach, and they often boost the organic rankings for those entities. This makes it easier for you to capture the attention of your audience without adding to your marketing budget. The reason for this boost is the user experience. Google knows that mobile-first development improves the user experience of an application, and they want their users to get the best experience possible. Therefore, they reward companies that engage in mobile-first development.
With mobile-first development, you’re working with a smaller space. Naturally, this means you focus on the most important aspects of your application. You don’t include extraneous features because there’s simply not room for them. Because you’re not bogged down with adding too many bells and whistles, you can channel your energy into optimizing the features you do plan to include, improving customer satisfaction.
Create user scenarios for your application. Mobile use lends itself to many different personas, so you need to ensure that your application is catering to each facet of your audience. Let’s go back to the CRM example. Yes, you’re going to have a lot of salespeople using your application, but you’ll also need to make it work for marketers, customer service representatives, and even accountants.
Each of these personas will need different functions from your application, and you need to ensure that all of those functions work well in a mobile environment. Start by wireframing the application to provide a structured layout and ensure you’re using the right size for mobile use. Then you should make a content inventory of all of the features you want to include and prioritize the list. Finally, test it on an actual mobile device to ensure it works, rather than a mobile simulator.
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With mobile-first applications, it’s easier for businesses to adjust their operations to fit a remote and mobile workforce. Sales teams can access customer data on the go, IT and customer service teams can quickly answer questions no matter where they are, and maintenance teams can check job statuses while they’re in the field. Mobile-first development improves applications, allowing businesses to do more with them on a variety of devices and streamline their business operations.