Mobile First Marketing: How Web Designers Could Contribute

Several years ago, no one would have thought that mobile first anything would exist. After all, who could do anything on those tiny screens, let alone read content, shop or anything else?

But times have changed and now we see armies of people consuming content solely on their mobile devices. Sure, they have desktops – but they use them solely for their work, possibly a game or a movie.

When it comes to reading, browsing the web, getting basic information, mobile devices became the most essential tool. Think about it, no one says “Let me Google that” and then goes to their laptop or computer. No, most people take out their mobile devices.

This is why mobile and creating everything specifically for mobile is such an important thing today. Websites, apps, companies, banks – all of those institutions are going after the trend, they are moving to where their customers are.

First there was a responsive, then mobile friendly and now, finally, mobile-first design. While they are similar in some terms, they are also quite different.

Here are some differences between each of these concepts:

  • Mobile friendly design: This means that a website allows the user to view and use the same things they would on their desktop, on their mobile device with some minimal changes and effects on loading time. In this case, not every function is possible on mobile but it aims to be. For instance, huge photos will be scaled down or removed, horizontal photos will be displayed vertically and so on. Some other functions will be lost, but those are typically not necessary. Many businesses first rushed towards this design. Those which didn’t, likely experienced shorter visits, less visits in total and less engagement.
  • Responsive design: This is a type of web design where web pages are designed for a wide variety of screen sizes and orientations. The goal here is to provide the optimal experience for the users, no matter the type of device. So, the difference between mobile friendly and responsive is that mobile friendly was considered an add on to the existing design while responsive design is built right from the start of designing a website. While the terms are similar, these can be different in results they produce.
  • Mobile first: Finally, we have mobile first design which takes away the habit of designing for the largest screen possible and instead designs for the smallest screen possible first. Mobile website viewing grows more and more and thus this methodology considers that it’s important that the optimal experience should be on the smallest screen – the mobile device. Desktop usage has gone down while mobile usage steadily grows. The trend dictates that it’s important to design for devices your audience is using rather than designing for something your audience is not using.

Starting with mobile works because it eliminates the problems that come with scaling down the larger screen. Adding functions and features is always easier than removing them and still keeping the functionality. If you start with mobile, you work with limitations from the beginning.

Here are some benefits of designing for mobile first:

  • This approach makes you reconsider what you really need on your site – instead of just mindlessly filling the space, you’ll focus on what the users really need.
  • To achieve functionality, you’ll add only the most critical content and features.
  • There are no constraints of scaling down – if your pages load fast on mobile, they will load fast on desktop too.
  • A smaller screen puts the focus on the content, no distractions.

Here are some of the cons of mobile first design:

  • It can be harder to design on a smaller platform.
  • The space limits the content.
  • Hover feature is basically useless – anything clickable needs to be bigger.

How Web Designers Could Add To Mobile-First Marketing

Businesses use three different marketing strategies – content marketing, email marketing and social media marketing. Just like you need to see web design through mobile first, you have to view marketing like that too. This means serious cuts in design, text elements and so on – all of this to create the optimal mobile experience. You would also need to make those marketing strategies into something easier to consume online.

So, as a web designer, you have to consider some things:

Content Marketing

Content marketing

Traditionally related to blogging, now it means a lot more, encompassing a wide range of content creation. Many of these new lengths in content are really good on mobile – think vlogs or podcasts. They are easier to consume and are always readily available when the consumer needs them.

Here are some ways the content should be designed with mobile-first methodology in mind:

  • Remove the sidebars: Sidebars are a bit outdated. Cumbersome and mostly useless, you should cut them completely. Below your content there should be a link to related posts and that’s it – no fuss to scroll through. This is what enables mobile users to focus on the content in front of them.
  • Use great visuals: For longer posts, you should use plenty of images. However, you need to make sure that the screen isn’t overwhelmed by them. For example, a few images that were specifically created for the content, especially if they are in the same style, should work great.
  • Text needs design too: Especially since the formatting and the structure are often so different than on the big screen. For instance, understand that justified text will lead to many weird white space breaks and that it won’t work so well with the images.
  • Paragraph breaks are really important: When your text has no paragraph breaks, it looks like this giant wall of text which is not an optimal way to retain readers. Lengthy sentences, paragraphs that never end and so on really deteriorate your chances to get some readers. A paragraph should have 3 or 4 lines which would translate well into 5-6 lines on mobile. An image or some kind of break between paragraphs is also very useful. The text should be the right size for mobile too.
  • Engage people: Mobile users have a famously shorter attention span which is why it’s so hard to get them to convert. So, an ever-present CTA at the bottom of the page might be a good idea. It makes it brief and direct while also providing value. Those who have time will read, those who don’t will click on the link. Involve some multi-channel strategies – make the images of your products pinnable or easy to save some other way.

The goal of content on mobile is either to have the mobile journey finish with a conversion or to provide a clear path for your users to follow later when they can find you from another device.

Email Marketing

Email Marketing

Email is one of the most effective ways to sell products or services and get in front of an audience – especially the mobile audience. However, mobile users don’t think and do the same as desktop users so you should be careful with your email design for mobile.

  • Make it simple: If your email subscribers aren’t expecting a long message, keep it short and simple. Websites are there for more information, mail is there for quick marketing messages and links that lead to websites.

    Don’t put more than one link CTA in your email, multiple, competing images or graphics and so on. There should be some symmetry when it comes to text and design.

  • Use visuals: Writing emails with no visuals is a great idea in theory – these emails seem like emails from their friends or coworkers. But, on mobile, some visuals are necessary. However, an email with no images, using plain text and free-standing links looks seriously bad. Instead, try to grab attention with visuals and good email template design. A splash of colors and nice illustrations is only going to make your email better.
  • Make sure your emails are readable: The font of your emails should be appropriate for mobile. If it’s too small, your readers will just skip right through it and miss possibly important information. Create a good page hierarchy – leave enough space for the headline, CTA and text. Each part should be readable and get plenty of real-estate.
  • Use images to tell a story: While plain text can serve a good purpose, your images can play an important role. Since they are so naturally good at drawing attention, you can place some text and branding on those images and get the message across quickly and easily.
  • Make sure your emails are relevant: Mobile users are looking for quick actions that can lead to precise results. So, rather than going on and on in your emails, offering several things at once, be precise and focused. One simple offer delivered in a compelling way is all it takes.
Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing

Social media often means brief and to the point. Bite-sized messages have a limited amount of space which means that posts have to communicate through images and videos.

It’s brief, simple and succinct. A good web design can make it even better.

  • Pick the right images: Because images and videos are taking up so much space on an average mobile screen, you should know that it’s critical to make those images and videos count. They should be well-branded and they should play a big part in telling a story. If you are using user generated content, you should make sure that you are okay with that content representing your brand.
  • Be aware of the amount of space you have: You have limited amount of space to put content in when it comes to most social media platforms. While those have been stretched recently, you should still focus on what space on mobile and social media means. Don’t make your users do more than they have to. Don’t make them work too hard to get to the point.
  • Add hashtags – but wisely: Hashtags are not important on some social media channels, but very important on some. For example, you don’t need them on Facebook or LinkedIn, but you do need Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and so on. Still, even on these platforms, you should be careful how you use them. One powerful hashtag is far better than a bunch of irrelevant ones. Keep in mind that hashtags stand out like a CTA, so placing them within the text can be distracting.
  • Format posts: Proper formatting can make your text more appealing to the eye. Emojis can help get the message across better and give some room for rest. Numbered lists are also an option for social media. Find ways to make your posts more appealing through innovative formatting.

Design can be fickle and it can be tricky to follow all of the trends that dictate what you should do. However, designing for mobile marketing is a definitive trend for now and the future. If you are interested in expanding your scope of work, you should start offering design for marketing, specifically mobile marketing as one of your services.

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