How do you build a mobile-first customer experience?

Written by on June 11, 2019

When you’re building your website, there are so many things to consider. Is it user-friendly? Is the layout clean? Do the buttons and hyperlinks work as they should? And most of all, are you creating the right content? In the midst of all these thoughts, however, you might be missing one extremely integral key consideration— making your site user-friendly for the mobile audience.

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There used to be a time where desktop computers and PCs were the most popular ways to access the web. Today, that’s no longer true. Many users rely on mobile phones to browse the internet versus practicing the patience to power up a desktop or PC. In turn, companies have become wise and have started focusing on developing sites with a ‘mobile-first’ philosophy.  

But how do you build a mobile-first user experience? And what does it entail? In this post, we’ll take you through exactly what mobile-first customer experience is, why it’s important, and how you can achieve its parameters.

What mobile-first customer experience is and why it is important

Mobile-first design is a design strategy that’s used when a company or team sets out to design a web experience for its online visitors. This strategy focuses first on sketching and prototyping a site for the smallest screen space devices first (i.e., mobile) before progressing to test how it renders on larger ones, like PCs. Essentially, as its name suggests, a mobile-first strategy prioritizes designs for mobile devices first.  

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Why this is a popular strategy is simple and maybe obvious, too. More and more people are browsing the internet through mobile devices, and that number is only expected to go up in a few years.

In fact, according to emarketer, by 2021, 95.4% of online users will search the internet through their mobile phones.

That’s why many companies and even smaller blogs are turning their attention to mobile experiences. Doing so enables them to cater to the masses and ensure the majority of visitors have a good experience when they pay their site a visit.

You can do many things to make sure your site is mobile-centric. The following tips will get you going on developing an exceptional mobile-first experience for your customers.  

Keep it short and sweet

Your mobile device screen is smaller compared to the screen of your PC. This means that when you’re devising a strategy for mobile-first, you should keep your content and layout compact, concise, and compelling because you’ll only have a limited amount of real estate to work with. One of the first things you can tackle to achieve this is your content.

Start by limiting text in places like your home and landing pages. Make every effort to keep your content as direct and to-the-point as possible. For instance,  use two words instead of five, when feasible. This could apply for anything, from creating headings to when you’re deciding on menu titles.

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If you have a site menu, try to consolidate common topics so that visitors aren’t forced to pour through a laundry list of options. Remember, longer lists are more challenging to browse through on mobile and will typically minimize your font. Or if font remains the same, your users will be forced to scroll.

Users like browsing clean screens with minimal text so they can see everything in one place.  

However, it’s important to note that thinking mobile-first doesn’t mean eliminating information. Instead, it merely means you must sort information into primary, secondary, and tertiary categories.

For instance, your mobile device would display only those items that fall in your primary category. This would include the most essential elements of your site.

For instance, if you’re a computer retailer, your primary category would include your top-selling, newest model PCs. It wouldn’t include dated or less popular models. Those items would be better reserved for your secondary category.

The secondary category is where you can safely add some additional products that are nice-to-haves but not essential. You would include content from the second category when you’re designing for a slightly larger device, like a tablet.

The tertiary category would include all the items that fall in your primary and secondary categories plus more. It encompasses content that offers greater detail and is ideal for larger devices (think desktops). The tertiary category can include things like testimonials, reviews, and other nonessential information considered a good supplement to your site content.  

There are also some other apparent differences between traditional desktop-focused sites versus mobile-first ones. For instance, desktop-focused sites tend to have more white space and larger images whereas mobile sites have collapsible menus and smaller or non-existent visuals.

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If your aim is to create a mobile-first design, think short, compact and concise, and you’ll win half the battle.  

Mind your load speed

Mobile phones equal instant gratification. They’re designed to be smart and quick. Using mobile phones you can do everything from finding stores near you, placing an order, to checking your balance to ensure sufficient funds for a purchase. Doing all of that takes only a matter of minutes.

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But the rapid nature we’ve come to expect of mobile also means your site speed should be able to keep pace.  

Users expect that same instant gratification in the form of load speed when they’re trying to visit your site as they do from everything else associated with mobile devices. They don’t have the patience to wait around for your website to load.

To illustrate, consider this statistic: 53% of mobile site visitors will leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load. In other words, UX has an impact on customer experience.

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To slash load speed, you can try many things, like compressing your images to make them smaller, cutting down content, and limiting the length of any video content you have on your site. A few simple tricks like this can go a long way in buying you several seconds more in load speed.

Focus on fewer clicks and input

Another way to feed visitors the immediacy they desire is by minimizing the number of clicks needed for them to get from point A to point B on your site.

The more difficult it is for them to navigate, the more likely they are to leave.  This will increase your site’s bounce rate.

Implementing fewer clicks will take some research on your end. For instance, you’ll first want to determine which pages or areas of your site visitors frequent the most. Then the key is to make those areas most accessible from your home or landing page.

For instance, if the majority of your customers regularly browse your product page, you might reduce the number of clicks from say five to two, so they can more quickly get from the home page to the product page. Even better, make your product page directly accessible from your main menu or perhaps your homepage, so they don’t have to click more than once to be redirected.

Also, limit the number of fields in your forms and subscriptions. The more fields visitors have to populate, the less likely they are to convert.

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In other words, find the smallest ways to make your customers lives infinitely easier when they’re on your site. A little bit can go a long way.  

Focus on layout and buttons

Fingers are big, and mobile screens are small. That’s why it’s crucial that you optimize your site for mobile. Do everything you can to make it possible for visitors to browse without getting frustrated.

For instance, make buttons larger, so visitors aren’t forced to zoom in before making a selection or so that they don’t end up accidentally clicking on the wrong hyperlink.

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Surveys indicate that  57% of internet users say they won’t recommend a business with a poorly designed mobile website.

To avoid creating a subpar experience, reduce user frustrations, so that your site is perceived less as disorganized and stressful and more as easy and user-friendly. This will encourage visitors to stay and entice them to return.

To achieve this, give hyperlinks plenty of space, enlarge buttons, and make sure there’s enough space around all the interactive elements on your site. Most of all, make sure your site doesn’t appear sloppy.  

Studies prove that looks matter. In fact, 38% of people will stop engaging with a website if the content or layout is unattractive.

Test like there’s no tomorrow

First impressions count, which means you probably only have one shot at making your site user-friendly. Because once someone has a negative experience with it, they’re likely to not return.

In fact, statistics prove that 40% of visitors won’t come back after one negative experience.  

The way around this is to test, test, and test again. Because when it comes to your visitors, you’ll have essentially one shot at making a positive first impression and that’s it.  

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During the testing phase, think like a customer. Step away from your desktop/laptop and start browsing through your mobile device. Tap through pages, check out hyperlinks, and see how everything displays. As you’re doing this, ask yourself a few questions:  

  • Is the site easy to navigate?
  • Does it load in a timely fashion?
  • Are the text and graphics easy to read?
  • Is there excess content that can be removed or consolidated?
  • Does everything render correctly on the screen or are certain elements cut off or distorted?
  • Do you have to click through several areas before you end up where you want?  

In essence, the above is a part of customer experience journey mapping.

Essentially, customer journey mapping helps businesses step into their customer’s shoes and take a look at their business from a customer’s viewpoint. This type of mapping unveils the customer’s journey as they interact and do business with you from the moment they step in to the moment they check out.

Journey mapping of your site can reveal things like customer’s pain points, the downsides of the experience, and what they would require to feel confident enough to become a part of your conversion rate.

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As desktops and PC web browsing grows obsolete, it’s more important than ever for businesses to design their site for the mobile-first audience. This will optimize your user experience, lead to happier visitors, and increase your conversion rates.

To achieve mobile-first customer experience, be sure to do the following: keep content short and sweet, mind your load speed, reduce clicks and input required, focus on layout and buttons, and test like there’s no tomorrow.

In the end, remember when your focus remains on building a good customer experience, the revenue will follow. Because when your heart’s in the right place, the rewards are sure to follow.  



Potterhead, serial-reader, and cinephile, addicted to eating cold oranges. When I am not busy loving my cats Thelma and Louise, I am writing. I also enjoy music, and occasional recluses.