Dangers of Mobile-First Website Design

Podcast host

Phil Vallender

Phil Vallender


Episode summary

A responsive mobile experience is important for modern B2B websites.

Search crawlers now assess and rank pages using the mobile version of your website and prospective customers may also access content on their smartphones during the initial research phases.

But despite all this, when it comes to B2B, traditional desktops still dominate when it comes to the analysis and final purchase decisions. 

So even though enhancing the mobile experience can improve discoverability in search, these design decisions risk misalignment with your buyers during critical stages in their journey.

Episode transcript

The question is often asked, should B2Bs take a mobile-first approach to their website design or creation? Or rather they're told that they must.

Why do people advise you to take a mobile-first approach?

And the source of that advice is because mobile display and performance is very, very key to how you are viewed by Google and to your SEO and to how well you rank. So it's an important consideration.

But it doesn't change the fact nevertheless, that for the majority of businesses, the majority of their ideal customers, time on their website will be spent on desktop resolution.

And though they may visit on mobile in terms of first discovery, they'll very likely come back on desktop when they seriously want to investigate what's on offer or make contact.

Taking a balanced approach to website design

So I think the best advice is to take a balanced approach and to design for the desktop to make sure that your content and your pages offer a really effective, friction free, coherent desktop journey and experience.

And by that I include not applying mobile design principles to desktop, hamburger menus and the like.

Make sure your website is designed for desktop and designed to respond and perform well on mobile too, so that visitors on mobile have a great experience. Google experiences a fast-performing website and ranks you highly.

Should you ever prioritise mobile website design?

In certain situations, certain businesses will have a case for prioritising mobile over desktop because that's how the majority of their customers engage with them.

But that isn't a blanket norm or rule.

And in the majority of cases, businesses should design for desktop and mobile with equal sensitivity and concern and not go headlong into this idea that we must design for mobile first and mobile only, really because of how important it is to Google.

The risks of a mobile-first approach to website design

The risk that comes with going too far down the mobile-first approach, if you like, is that your desktop user experience is suboptimal, meaning that hamburger navigation that hides the options from the visitor behind multiple clicks is proven to be counterproductive, counterintuitive and to reduce engagement and conversions.

And on mobile display, you'll likely take different approaches to how you display content and the length of the content, and that might result in more content being hidden from the visitor at first glance.

On desktop you've got room for all of that, so you can keep that content front and centre. You don't have to employ as many tactics to condense and consolidate it to fit on that small viewport.

The space constraints on mobile mean that you may take a very different approach to header design and to illustration design if you were to think only about mobile in the first instance.

But when it comes to illustrating your website for desktop, you've got the room and the scope to really create an impactful, memorable experience without harming performance that you might have to compromise.

For the mobile visitor, you often see that a hero design, for example, needs work to fit and to function on a mobile screen, whereas on the desktop you can really present an arresting headline and a really compelling screenshot or image without compromise.