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  • Writer's pictureShirish Shakya

Mobile First Approach and Responsive Design

It’s very fascinating to appreciate how much digital development has experienced progress in recent years. From very clunky-looking websites during the ’90s and early 2000s to astonishing and user-friendly websites we see these days, it looks like we’ve seen it all, but is that true? With the introduction of web 3.0, it seems that we’ve reached the ultimate pinnacle of web design and development but some findings suggest that we’ve been deceived from certain perspectives. These arguments have mainly highlighted the point issue that I as a mobile user face daily and I would belying if I disagree with the points.

What top findings have been suggested?

Slow Loading Times:

A study by Google found that 53% of mobile users abandon a site if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load.

Inadequate content:

A survey by Hubspot found that 60% of users are five times more likely to leave a site if its content is not optimized for their device.

Inadequate functionality:

A survey by litmus found that 40%of users reported having trouble completing a task on a mobile due to functionality issues.

Poor User Experience:

A survey by InMobi found that 87% of users reported a poor mobile experience made them less likely to engage with a brand in the future.

While it’s good that companies have shifted toward a much more mobile-friendly approach,  I think we still have a human factor to address before jumping to any type of design conclusion. As a designer, I question much more of my cognitive behavior and decisions regarding an app or software. As a matter of fact, I sweat more often when I realize businesses in general have hundreds of users like me from different devices who have views contradicting each other to a particular design approach. But having more than 50% of users stick to mobile usage makes the job much easier for us. When we narrow and initiate the functionality and design from a minor perspective we initially tend to stand firm with the essentials and needs of a user and then progress ourselves with many variations and possibilities for larger devices.

I remember back in the time when web designs were pretty much in favor of desktops, we had to zoom in on our mobile devices (p.s. with the dialpads) for finding any sort of information, this act was nothing more than nerve-wracking. I find it reassuring to realize we left that piece of technology in the past.

So why things have changed for a mobile-first approach?

I think it is safe to say now that we are much lazier than before to open a desktop and search for our interests, rather we prefer being comfy on our bed and taking full primacy of the almighty smartphones.

“With great user-experience comes great responsibilities“ - Uncle Ben

Well, I don’t think Uncle Ben actually said that but at least you get the concept, it’s something that we designers have really taken note of.

1. Focusing on constant progression rather than the downfall

As more of a product designer than a pixel pusher, we always got to strive to craft a better solution for the smallest size at the beginning. Keeping the solutions to a minimum and later scaling for a bigger size always helps us bein charge of the progressive enhancement rather than risking a downgrade.

2. Dropping unnecessary flashy items

When we’re pretty much focused on impact rather than making things pretty we tend to drop off some unnecessary ideas in the beginning. This not only has a positive impact on the solution but also saves a lot of our time.

3. Performing faster

By limiting things on the mobile we have a great opportunity to load the webpage faster as we know that mobile usually tends to load the content relatively slower than desktops. Consumers can now expect fast loading time that isn’t altered by excessive images and programs that won’t work on mobile devices.

The Complete Picture of Responsive Design

I used to receive a number of requests from clients, questioning whether I would provide them with the mobile version of their website as well while working on it. And I would be like “Why is that even a question, isn’t that obvious?” So I studied how businesses allover the internet perceived the responsiveness of a web app in general. I would be bluffing about not being amazed if I share that a significant number of businesses have not yet fully embraced the importance of mobile responsiveness in their web applications. The exact number of businesses that haven’t yet adopted responsive design might vary depending on the source and methodology of the research, but some studies have given an estimation that it could be anywhere around 20-50% of businesses.

From my perspective, responsive design serves a wider and complementary purpose to the mobile-first approach. Developers and designers work their way around to find the best solution for a particular breakpoint. This can include how the website looks but more often how it performs on a specific screen size. Making a product perform evenly on any device is what we can consider the secret recipe of responsive design.

While it’s great to have a well-performing application all-round, it’s even efficient for us designers and especially developers to put together a well-crafted product for all devices. Working with a  single codebase to create a website that adjusts dynamically to any specific screen size and orientation eliminates the need to separate a mobile version from a desktop version. This is due to the concept that responsive design leads to adjusting the layout, images, and content of a website based on the dimensions of the screen it is being viewed on.

The things “Responsive Design” is great at delivering:

1. Optimal Experience, Engagement, and Brand Loyalty

Firstly, a responsive design approach gives great companionship to the user’s experience on a platform. It usually improvises user experience by providing the optimal viewing experience on all devices. This leads to an increased level of engagement and a higher level of satisfaction among the users. This results in higher conversion and improved brand loyalty.

2. Knocking off the redundant work

The idea of needing preparation of separate mobile and tablet versions of a website is something we can lay off. This is due to the fact that responsive design takes into consideration streamlining the design process and reducing the extra amount of work required to maintain a website.

3. The greater search optimization

As a matter of consistent user experience throughout the devices, it’s even better to acknowledge that the search engine receives an easier way for crawling and indexing a website’s content, ultimately leading towards higher search ranking and driving more traffic to the website, thus creating more visibility.

To give it a bird-eye coverage of the topic, keeping ideas and concepts open to any possible dimension opens a whole new range of possibilities for providing an optimal experience to the users. As a quite ubiquitous subject in the digital world, we can now suggest that the future of mobile-first approach and responsive design is still up for grabs. The challenge and milestones for us designers in comparing and contrasting the usability and flexibility of responsive design will always remain viable. I think there’s always this new catch in the industry, there’s always this missing puzzle, and trying to put the pieces together is all part of the product design journey.

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