What It Really Means to Think “Mobile First”

January 5, 2018

How many times have you looked at your phone today? Between quick glances, email, text messages, videos and checking in on social media, by the end of the day, you and every one of your customers spend nearly three and a half hours looking at your phones. [Inc]

We all know this shift to mobile is happening, and you’ve probably heard marketers use the phrase “mobile first” for a while now. But what does it ACTUALLY mean? Simply put, it means planning for mobile devices before desktops. But what is simple to say might require dramatic shifts in established marketing and design processes.

Here are some of the main changes your organization must make to remain relevant in the new “mobile first” world.

Speed is Everything

The first requirement in a mobile world is speed. Over the past several years, Google has been prioritizing mobile speed more and more when calculating search engine rankings. Analyzing mobile web traffic Google has found that 53% of mobile visitors will abandon a site if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load, yet the average mobile page load time for sites is an agonizing 22 seconds.

WordPress has come to dominate the Internet over the past few years, supporting more than 25% of the world’s websites. [Forbes] While WordPress is a great platform to build a website on, it can be slow out of the box. Luckily, there are plenty of things you can do to help increase your site’s page speed. An easy way to get started, regardless of your platform,  is to test your site with Google’s Page Speed Test. It will tell you exactly where to focus to improve your site speed.

If you are starting a new website, you might even look beyond WordPress. There are a myriad of new mobile frameworks designed to improve mobile speed and user experience like FICTOAN, Beauter, Vanilla framework, Bulma and more.

Not Your Grandma’s Brand

If you manage to pass the speed test, your audience will find you, but what is their first impression of your brand online?

Social media and digital advertising are constantly changing. Over the past few years Facebook has made several changes to how profile photos appear on posts. Just this year, they changed the cropping that shows on your brand’s page from the square crop to a smaller circular crop. For some brands this meant their logos were awkwardly chopped off.

Moving forward, businesses are going to continue to face new challenges as their logo appears on new and changing platforms. While it’s very customary to have horizontal and stacked versions of your logo, the mobile first version of logo design will require brands to keep sizes in mind that maintain their readability on small mobile devices, and in a variety of different shapes, such as circles, squares and rectangles.

Just as websites are built for responsive designs where elements rearrange and disappear depending on the size, it’s also time to embrace responsive logos. On a responsive logo with an icon, text and tag line, each of the elements would be present at large sizes, and then the proportions might change with the text and tag line even dropping off as the logo gets used in smaller and smaller spaces. Brands that have a compact logo mark that they can use with or without the type treatment currently have a leg up in the social landscape.

If you really want to take it to the next level, you can even make it dance. Many digital platforms are starting to support animated logos. These present new options to explore and accentuate your brand’s identity in ways that catch mobile viewer’s attention as they scroll and swipe their way through content.

The single color logo cut out of vinyl is a thing of the past. It’s time to rethink how your brand is making use of its real estate in the mobile and digital world.

Developing the Right Content

Speaking of tight real estate, emerging platforms continue to decrease character limits and add all types of new restrictions for brands operating on them. To stay relevant among these changing landscapes will require new approaches to creating your content and messaging.

Start by flipping the dynamic from designing for large format pieces first, to designing for smaller mobile areas. Historically, a company profile would be developed in a longer format (750 words or so) and then whittled down to (250 and 150 character versions). It’s a very different approach to intentionally try to limit content and then build it back up for different mediums.

When in doubt, keep things simple. Focus on the core of your message and then build on it as you expand into additional content areas. If you can communicate your core messaging it in less than 6 seconds, or within 40 characters you’ll know you’re on the right track.

Finally, to maximize your website’s search engine compatibility, you will also have to begin writing differently. The first step in writing for web is to do your keyword research and find out what your audience is searching for. Then you can make sure those keywords and phrases are imbedded into the language of your copy. You also need to make sure that text is “live” and not baked into images, and ensure that it’s written in a conversational tone to answer the types of questions your audience would ask a friend or colleague, such as: “Where’s the best place to get…?” or “How do I…?” Highlight the most meaningful information in your content (like products, prices and hours) for search engines and virtual assistants by using rich data markups, which are back end code to call out critical pieces of information to search engines.

Looking Forward

From a wider perspective, not much has actually changed about what information your audiences want and need, but the way that information is being delivered continues to change at ever an increasing pace.

Focusing on mobile first requires bite size content that most companies are not accustomed to, but it is easy to embrace by focusing on the core of your message and objectives.

Have questions about how to put mobile first in your marketing? Let us help>

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