Should websites be built for mobile first?

There is a growing argument that websites should be built for mobile devices first and foremost.

With smartphones and tablets completely changing consumer buying behaviour it’s a viewpoint which is hard to dispute.

This consumer shift toward mobile devices is not temporary trend – it’s now a permanent cultural swing. You can see this movement manifesting itself in shops on the high street with shoppers going online with their smartphones to compare prices with other retailers.

In the last year, the number of people using these devices to visit websites has doubled – to more than a fifth -and mCommerce sales in the UK have increased 356%. Access to the Internet via mobile devices is now expected to overtake fixed lines within a year.

A mobile phone may not provide the best piece of retail estate for a website to operate but it is where the visitors are going and if businesses what to succeed online in future they cannot ignore this fact.

There are some major organisations, however, which are still frustrating web visitors by not optimising their sites for the smartphone or tablet. There may be fundamental reasons for them not developing websites with these devices in mind but none really hold water.

They may have chosen to invest in an app and simply don’t have the money to invest in mobile optimisation. If this is the case though, you have to question why a company would choose an app over a mobile optimised site. Consumers do not want to download an endless number of company apps, which they may only use two or three times a year, when it’s so easy to get an Internet connection and visit the website. Could the App be dying? (The title of our next blog post?)

Companies also need to optimise for mobiles because people are, by nature, impulsive.

When they want to make a purchase, or conduct research, they want to be able to do it anytime any place – and businesses need to accommodate this. It may be a friend has recommended a restaurant to eat at on an evening out – that restaurant needs to allow that person to book a table quickly and easily there and then.

Some companies may think their clients are not impulsive – they are more carefully considered and therefore not likely to buy from a mobile phone. They may be right, but when people think of a query, maybe on a commute to work, they still want it answered immediately. If they can do that on a mobile device, there is a greater chance they will return to the company providing the answer and make a purchase at a later date.

How companies should optimise their website for mobile is debatable. Developers argue over whether it’s better to have a website fully adaptive to any screen size or a completely separate mobile site for the smartphones. What’s not debatable, however, is that companies need to cater for a mobile audience or face losing custom to competitors who are developing for a multi-device friendly world.

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