Is Your Mobile Site Now More Important Than Desktop?

By Rodney Laws | UX

Dec 22
A man holding a phone as he rests his hands on a table and shops on mobile rather than desktop.

As the number of people using their phones to browse the web and view sites continues to increase, it’s more important than ever to have a properly optimised, mobile-friendly website. We take a look at why mobile is so important, and whether it should take over from desktop as a priority when it comes to updating your site.

What does a mobile-friendly site mean?

Mobile-friendly doesn’t just mean that you can access a website via a mobile, it means that it offers a good user experience when it’s viewed on a smaller screen. If you have to zoom in and out to read the site, links and buttons don’t work, or it just doesn’t load properly on phone or tablet, then it’s not mobile-friendly.

Responsive design is generally considered the best way to go about making your website mobile-friendly. This means that your site and all the elements in it adapt to the screen size of whatever device is being used. 

For this reason, many sites are now focusing on mobile-first web design, which means designing your website for a mobile or smaller screen first, and then scaling up the design for larger screens. Instead of adapting the desktop version and making it usable on smaller screens, mobile design becomes the priority.

Why is mobile so important?

Let’s take a look at three of the main reasons:

Mobile vs desktop traffic

The number of people using smartphones and other devices to access the internet is rising year on year — in 2018, 52.2% of all website traffic around the world was generated through mobile phones. This means that potentially over half of the visitors to your website are using a smartphone instead of a desktop computer or laptop.

SEO benefits

The mobile version of your website is an important ranking factor when it comes to where you appear in search engine results. Google prioritises your mobile site above your desktop site with mobile-first indexing

If you don’t have a mobile-friendly site this will negatively affect your rankings, and sites that provide a good mobile experience will, as a general rule, rank above it. Furthermore, if someone views your site on their phone and it doesn’t load properly or it’s difficult to navigate then they’re unlikely to stay for very long, which will also have a negative impact on your rankings. 

Mobile conversions

Conversions are still higher on desktop compared with mobile, but the gap is closing rapidly. More people are using their phone to complete purchases, and they’re also likely to use their phone to do research and then convert at a later point using a desktop. 

Bearing this in mind, if your website doesn’t function properly on a mobile then you’ll miss out on people that are starting their search for a product or service. Your competitors are going to be prioritising their mobile site so it’s important that you do too.  

Where to start with mobile-friendly website design

Most website building platforms will make it simple to create a mobile-friendly website, but these are a few key things to consider when looking to improve your website when it’s viewed on smaller screens:

  • Increase your font size to at least 16px so visitors don’t have to zoom in to read anything.
  • Reduce the page load time — use fewer images and videos for mobile sites so that it doesn’t take a long time to load the page when someone’s using mobile internet. 
  • Large images can take up too much of the page when viewed on a mobile.
  • Minimise the website navigation — a mobile site doesn’t need an extensive navigation menu to take up half the screen. Instead, consider using a hamburger menu or just including the most important links.
  • Make the call to actions and links bigger so they’re easy to click on for mobile users.
  • Avoid pop-up windows as much as possible — they can be distracting and annoying for users on a small screen because they’re harder to close. 
  • Don’t make your pages too long so that mobile visitors have to keep scrolling and scrolling. Put the important information at the top of each page so it gets key details across without them needing to go further down. 

Mobile websites vs mobile apps 

If you’re going to focus on mobile traffic then you might be wondering if you need an app. Apps can often provide a better user experience than a mobile website as they’re developed specifically for smaller screens and can offer a more personalised experience. 

Developing an app means you will also be able to take advantage of a mobile device’s unique functionality, for example by sending push-notifications that reach your customer as soon as they check their phone.  

However, a successful app that functions well can take a lot of money to develop, especially as you need to create and keep up to date two versions for iOS and Android. And it’s still essential to have a mobile-friendly website as well — if people are searching for your business or products on their phone they’re going to find your website so it needs to work well on mobile. 

If you’ve got the resources and a growing customer base then it’s definitely worth considering developing a mobile app, but you should prioritise creating a mobile-friendly website first. 

Overall, having a mobile-friendly website is essential for all businesses — not only will a poor mobile website damage your search engine rankings, but it’ll also put off potential customers and you’ll lose out on a growing number of conversions.