Mobile-First Web Design: Google’s New Focus

Mobile-First Web Design: Google’s New Focus

A couple years ago an algorithm update began penalizing websites that were not mobile-friendly. One of the latest changes Google has made to how websites are ranked is to take the mobile focus a step further.

Rather than scan the full blown version of the website for content and then check if it's also mobile-friendly, Google is now scanning the mobile version of the site first. This not only means sites with no mobile design take a serious hit, but that accessibility in the mobile view is more significant than ever before.

It's one thing to have a web design that mobilizes, but if it's missing click-to-call buttons, includes sliders or other factors that don't work well for mobile, it could matter now in a way that it didn't previously.

More importantly, this also changes the way developers should think of design.

Mobile-First Design

Up until now, even mobile-friendly sites are predominantly built with the desktop view in mind first. After the fact it's a strategy of taking that full design down into something that looks good on smaller devices.

This new change may reverse that for developers. Imagine the difference if sites began with a mobile design, worked to expand out from there for larger screens. In many ways the end result for desktop view could end up looking similar to now, but since the priorities are different for mobile designs than desktop ones, starting with mobile affects design choices and what we ultimately offer the visitor.

One example of this difference is that usually folks browsing sites on a desktop computer are more likely to be researching or casually comparing things. There's a great focus on information and answering questions for this type of user.

Mobile users, however, tend to be on-the-go and more prone to action. A mobile user looking up a restaurant or retail location, for instance, fairly likely is out somewhere and ready to go there. If not right then, then shortly thereafter. They're statistically less interested in reading and more likely looking for phone numbers, navigation info, pricing, etc.

That type of focus changes the way we create content.

To put the significance of this move in perspective, mobile searches have been growing for nearly a decade, but throughout all that the main way most people thought of websites, that is to say the desktop view, remained the default. Mobile views became important to have, but were still a secondary priority to a good desktop design.

Google putting mobile designs first as its default way to crawl websites is an admission of a changing age, more so than anything we've seen. This seems an acknowledgement of the way so many folks are consuming the internet these days, and more to come.

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Brian Watkins

Brian Watkins

Web strategist, tech geek, and music lover. I've been in the marketing and web development industry for since 2007, combining technical and coding skills with creative writing to improve businesses' websites and better communicate their brands to their target customers. Having worked at both ends of this spectrum — the back end coding and the front end presentation, as well as business operations and strategizing with sales teams — I've gained some valuable insights in making all these pieces mesh.
design|One|web

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