One of the first things we do when performing a web audit for a prospective client is to look at the website on a phone. Often, websites that are more than five years old are not optimized for mobile traffic. When this is the case, we often recommend a new website or a redesign of the current one.

For such clients, we sometimes hear,

  • “Why should I care about mobile traffic? My business is B2B. Most of my leads should come from people that are in an office working or on a desktop.”
  • “My customers aren’t millennials or Gen Z, they aren’t always on their phone. I don’t think my customers will find me using their mobile device.”
  • “Can’t I just have some basic info on my mobile site, and have the full website on the desktop?”
  • “Nobody visits my website much anyhow, why spend so much on a redesign if it doesn’t get visitors?”
  • We will respond to these concerns, and by the end of this article, you’ll understand why we place “mobile-first.” Let’s take a look at what we mean by “mobile-first,” and then explain how it is an integral part of your digital strategy.

What Makes Mobile Design Important?

Before we dive any deeper, let’s look at a few reasons why mobile traffic is important as a whole:

  • Over half of all web traffic comes from mobile browsers
  • More than 25% of mobile users are mobile-exclusive
  • Three out of four people will leave a website if it is not mobile-friendly

From these stats alone, we learn a few things. Around half of your visitors will be looking at your website from their mobile phones at some point. A significant number of these visitors’ only interaction with your website will be from their phones. Most importantly, many of these users will not give your brand a chance if the website doesn’t look good on mobile.

Even when looked at by demographics, these numbers hold up. The myth that older customers are averse to technology doesn’t hold true anymore. Even as far back as the Silent Generation, a third of seniors own a smartphone, own a tablet, or use social media. For baby boomers, this jumps up to almost two-thirds. For Gen X and later, there’s almost no difference between them and millennials or Gen Z.

Why Mobile First?

If we recognize mobile traffic as being worth consideration, then we should build a website that appeals to both desktop and mobile. If that’s the case, why should mobile come first, as opposed to desktop-first?

The simple answer is that a mobile device cannot handle everything a desktop can. Autoplay videos, interactive diagrams, and other visual elements can be complicated to implement. As you might realize already, it’s easier to scale up than scale down. It’s better to have a working site on mobile that is complemented by desktop-only features. If the presence of such elements is missed, then the user experience fails.

Yet web development is not just about creating an engaging experience – it’s also about a consistent experience. This means retooling an experience to function well across all platforms. The mobile experience can’t just be a watered-down desktop experience. If your goal is to convert traffic, then stripping away powerful features of a desktop site is also turning away conversions.

Since 2018, Google’s algorithm has chosen to index based on mobile-first. They look specifically at mobile delivery, and what is given to mobile sites. Since most searches on Google are done on mobile, they want to make sure they are delivering content to those users.

Many are quick to point out that mobile traffic usually doesn’t perform well on their website. Sometimes these numbers are striking. Some clients can have over 80 percent mobile traffic, yet less than a third of their leads come from mobile. Wouldn’t this indicate that mobile traffic isn’t as valuable?

It could be the case that even at best, mobile traffic doesn’t outperform desktop traffic. Yet even if desktop traffic is twice as valuable, that is no reason to completely turn away mobile traffic. Perhaps mobile traffic could be made more valuable if it was prioritized, too.

Also remember, it’s easier to retool a desktop experience than it is to strip down a website for mobile. A website that is complete and cohesive, but lean, works better than a website that feels barren.

How This All Ties Into Digital Marketing

Even if your best-converting traffic comes from desktop, much of your traffic will at some point come through mobile. The reason for this is simple. If you are advertising on social media, like LinkedIn or Facebook, much of your traffic will come after working hours. Yes, even for B2B.

This is all a matter of when and how people use these platforms. Facebook and LinkedIn are at peak use at night and on weekends. That means your ads are liable to show during these peak hours, and you are targeting business professionals off the clock. They aren’t going to ignore an ad just because they’re not at work. Think about your own business, and how you found our business. Were you at work, looking up “digital marketing company” on company time? Or did you find this article while at home browsing Facebook?

As for Google, there’s a good reason they index by mobile-first. A vast majority of Google searches come from a mobile device. Think about the search “digital marketing company near me,” for example. Is this a search that someone is going to do at their office computer, setting aside a time to do the search? More likely than not, it’s the opposite. They probably just saw a competitor’s ad on YouTube, and now they want an ad of their own. They may also be getting out of a meeting with your competitor, and want to investigate other options.

In both cases, they are spurred to action by something, and usually, they’re on the go when it happens. So when they find your ad and click on your site, they are doing so with high intent. That means your ad should direct to a landing page that can convert – which it will if you put thought into mobile-first.

Common Pitfalls in Mobile Design

Some web designers (not us!) take “mobile-first” to mean “easy design project.” A responsive design can be pretty simple to replicate and mass-produce. Then again, a mass-produced website is not what most companies are looking for.

Your business is unique and solves unique challenges. You may have original ideas for things to put on your website, too. We want to make it happen. An interactive diagram for choosing a home site? A free engine for automatically generating a quote for your services? Let’s talk about how to make your website unique – and consistent across all your channels and platforms.