Q: What’s this “mobile-first” thing and why do we need our websites to be mobile-friendly?

A: According to StatCounter, the beginning of 2017 marked the first time mobile devices were the most popular way to access the internet. This meant that websites originally designed for laptops and desktops were being accessed most often via mobile devices with considerably smaller screens. Unfortunately, this required users to manually manipulate websites by constantly zooming in and out. Enter the “mobile-first” era where websites are being designed first and foremost for the mobile experience, which typically requires a significant overhaul of the site, but it is worth the investment because of the improved online user experience.

The mobile-first approach also offers the ability to more prominently feature content and functionality that mobile device users want most, such as the nearest store, directions to nearby locations and other location-specific content.

Another advantage of having a mobile-first website is that Google will prioritize mobile-friendly websites in the mobile search results, which improves the chance of your site being found on Google in the first place.

As for how to migrate to a mobile-friendly website, there are two common approaches, namely responsive design and adaptive design. A responsive design site is a single site that dynamically changes the layout of its pages based on the type of device the user is using (desktop, laptop, tablet, phone) to access the site. Adaptive design not only alters the layout of pages based on the type of device viewing the page, but also offers multiple versions of the page in terms of the content and functionality offered based on the type of device being used to view the site. This is particularly important on sites where the needs of the mobile device viewer may be different from the needs of the viewer accessing from a laptop/desktop computer.

At the end of the day we need to keep evolving our websites to accommodate the changing behaviors of our customers. If customers want a mobile-friendly website, then that’s what we need to offer them. It’s mobile-first to avoid being “website-last.”

So how many of you are viewing this article from a mobile device?


Gino Giovannelli is a marketing professor at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business.