Why Mobile First Should Be The Mantra For Web Design

During the early days of the Internet, it was assumed that older people would be slow in adopting to new technology and media, and were not likely to engage with your brand online. However, that prediction hasn’t panned out as today’s Boomers have turned that myth upside down.

More than 50% of Boomers have a smartphone and the vast majority are online everyday doing a variety of everyday tasks – social media, online retail, banking, consuming news and entertainment to name a few. They are also researching products and services more often than not on a tablet or smartphone. With yesterday’s release of the larger and faster iPhone 6, a new upgrade cycle will be begin and more Boomers will be visiting your site from a mobile device. The big question – are you ready? If not, then it is time to change your web mindset to “mobile first.”

Mobile first is a design and user experience (UX) philosophy that drives the UX development process. For those unfamiliar with user experience, it boils down to mapping the needs of your users against the goals of your business, and creating paths that drive engagement and action. The action could be anything from an email sign-up or social follow to actual purchase. With the trend of more people accessing the web from mobile device, marketers must think about the experience the visitor finds when using a tablet or smartphone. 



Many marketers are familiar with the concept of responsive design where the web site elegantly adjusts to the form factor of the device of the user. For many companies a great responsive site is a better option than the creation of a native mobile app. Additionally, you have to be mindful that many will be coming to your site from a mobile device when they open an email or come to you from Facebook or Twitter, which are becoming primarily mobile platforms. 

Responsive design is great, but marketers need to take it a step further. Users interact with websites differently, depending on the accessing device. Tablets are routinely showing higher conversion rates vs. websites in some shopping categories. Mobile first is a designing mindset. It is not that mobile is more important, but because mobile has the most restrictions, it makes sense to start with mobile and add to it for the full web site design. If you start with the desktop web site, the mobile experience ends up looking like an inferior experience. Often you get an over-designed web that loads slowly and is clunky to use on a mobile device. 

We’ve been designing with a mobile first mindset for over two years and here are a few tips to designing for Boomers:

  • Ease of use and site functionality are paramount; menus must be clear and labeled. Use common and consistent icons and familiar graphical elements to provide feedback to the user.
  • Colors should be bold and simple and not overwhelm a smartphone screen. Use larger fonts to ease the strain on Boomer eyes.
  • Incorporate the use of video to increase engagement
  • Make button large and easy to read, same with social share buttons 
  • Stack forms clearly when designing the smart phone version; and make the forms and landing pages easy to fill out with large field openings. 
  • Keep your whole digital ecosystem in mind especially when driving people to your web site from other media. It’s critical to have mobile enabled landing pages and pre populate forms to reduce the amount of data input.

Analysts expect Apple to sell between 60 and 70 million new iPhones by the end of 2014 and Boomers will be snapping up their share. Is your web site ready for their visit?

5 comments about "Why Mobile First Should Be The Mantra For Web Design".
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  1. Craig Mcdaniel from Sweepstakes Today LLC, September 10, 2014 at 12:53 p.m.

    Sorry but Sweepstakes Today has one of the highest percentage of "Boomers" of any site on the web but are not seeing anywhere near the "50" percent number you claim in smartphones. The number of smartphone users have gone up but it is less than 20 percent. My average visit is right at 30 minutes and thereby those people would run out of battery time. You your other point, we are making our site more mobile friendly because there is a demand for mobile. however in the long term, I don't see the 150 to 200 million desktops and laptops going away.

  2. Gordon Plutsky from 21 Advisors, September 10, 2014 at 2:20 p.m.

    Hi Craig, my point is that 50% of Boomer who own a mobile phone have a smartphone. That does not mean that 50% of their internet browsing is done by smartphone. In fact, I would would expect it to be around 20-30% depending on the site content. For example, sites that cater to travelers would likely have higher mobile usage. Your site is not typical with 30 min average visit, that is a great number, but most product information sites have a much lower time per visit. The larger trend is the one you mention at the end, consumers are slowly and surely moving to mobile and it is important for brand to provide a consistent and even user experience for all customers.

  3. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, September 10, 2014 at 8:02 p.m.

    More than half the things a smart phone does, boomers don't need or use even if they have them. They use the camera, the text, the email, the search to look up things. At last night's dinner one of the women was able to find out why I said that Anson Mount is the best looking man ever. And of course, one woman had her cat video showing how he eats a whole tomato.

  4. Kevin Horne from Verizon, September 13, 2014 at 11:34 p.m.

    You missed Craig McDaniel's point. It isn't about how many own a smartphone, it's about the % of web access done via mobile. And that is still far and away a minority. "Mobile first" = snake oil.

  5. David Off from ProWeb365, January 25, 2015 at 10:12 p.m.

    More and more people tend to use smart phone. Smartphones and tablets have changed the approach toward design and user experience. Before the proliferation of mobile devices with advanced web-browsing capability , web designers had only one primary challenge to deal with – keeping the same look and feel of their websites in various desktop computer browsers.

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