The Importance Of Mobile First Web Design

The “mobile first” web design philosophy has been bandied around now for some years. When we first started to hear about it – probably back in about 2009 or so, possibly a bit earlier – I think it’s fair to say that many people were at first sceptical about the approach. And at that time, that would have been a reasonable response (if a little short-sighted).

Nothing is ever an immediate success – well, not to the scale at least that as soon as something like smartphone sales begins to gain a bit of traction that alarm bells start ringing that web designers and developers need to begin reinventing the discipline immediately.

But, there were some that saw the explosive adoption that we see today coming very early on.

One such person was of course Luke Wroblewski, author of Mobile First, and who in fact claims to have been the one who first coined the term.

Back in 2012, Wroblewski published a brilliant article on his website entitled ‘Why Mobile Matters’, in which he included this very revealing image.

The numbers relate to 2011, at which time there was an average of 371,124 brand new little people entering the world every day, compared to 1.45 million brand new little phones.

With more phones being produced than babies, the designers and devs around the globe needed to start waking up to the words “mobile first” and “responsive design”. And they did… sort of.

Mobile First More Important Now Than Ever Before

Even if you don’t discover this humble little blog post until 2018, that subheading above will still hold true. The fact of the matter is that as time presses on, the mobile first approach will continue to become more and more and more and more important.

According to Business Insider in an article dated March 11 2015, “In total, global smartphone shipments grew roughly 35% year-over-year (YOY) in the fourth quarter of 2014, culminating a year in which the market surpassed the 1 billion shipments milestone for the first time, according to BI Intelligence estimates.”

Smart Insights reproduce the following graph from Morgan Stanley Research, which shows the exact point when, in 2014, mobile overtook desktop in terms of users worldwide.

Of course, it’s not just the fact that usage and ownership has increased – the important thing is that mobile is increasingly becoming a very popular means of accessing the internet.

As you can see, it’s not just smartphones either that devs need to be aware of – games consoles and smart TVs are on the up and up, and, with the imminent release of the Apple Watch, it probably won’t be long until we start hearing the phrase “watch first web design” being bandied around.

But, let’s stick to what’s important now, for the moment – and that’s mobile first design.

Google Has Made Mobile First Imperative

In a recent blog post, Google officially announced that the search engine will be returning more mobile-friendly sites in SERPs as of April 21st 2015.

This comes straight from the horse’s mouth. As more and more people access the internet via their phones, then it of course makes perfect sense that Google will respond. After all, that keeps in perfect alignment with the company’s ethos – Google has always strove to be a user-first search engine, and so, now user’s are increasingly using their mobiles first to search the internet, then it is the mobile-first web pages that will be thusly climbing the rankings.

If you’re at all worried that your site might not currently be optimized for the mobile screen, then Google have very handily produced a free online tool called the Mobile-Friendly Test which you can use to check. Simply copy and paste your site’s URL into the search field, and you will be told how well your site is faring for the sake of the new update to the algorithm.

Final Word

With Google’s new update, responsive design is now officially a must for all websites. Up until now, the call for mobile-first design has mainly come from the view of pleasing your customers. However, now that Google are demanding it, designing sites for that are optimized for the mobile screen is now a serious SEO ranking factor, and you will ignore it at your peril.

Now the mobile first approach is for both users and search engines, it is pretty much the only approach that you can take when designing your website. So, if it’s not optimized already, then you need to update it now, otherwise you will quickly find your site slipping down the rankings, which will cost you in terms of both exposure and business.

Is your website optimized for mobile? If not then get in touch with us here at to see how we can help your site climb the rankings in light of the approaching update to Google’s algorithm. 


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