Why Mobile-First doesn’t spell the end for desktops

With mobile usage expected to top 51% of all internet access it’s unsurprising that Google has announced its Mobile-First initiative, meaning it will now analyse the mobile versions of an organisation’s website rather than just its desktop version

This has major consequences for businesses who are running multiple platforms – as considering how they optimise their mobile site for the purposes of SEO and usability will become ever more important.

However, does this mean companies should abandon their desktop platforms? Are they becoming a redundant channel? It’s unlikely. The need for users to write at length, to email, blog, as well as a strong preference by people to have a large screen and keyboard for a multitude of tasks, means there are still a lot of limitations to mobile, which will ensure desktops remain important for a long-time to come.

So how do you balance the needs of mobile and desktops in a Mobile-First era?

Usability is everything – As we’ve seen, different platforms have different purposes, and this has its disadvantages to a provider. Consideration of how a user interacts with a platform can often end-up dictating both the content and design, yet it is important to remember the advantages this brings.

Once you understand how a user interacts with both mobile and desktop sites you can optimise each platform for the best possible experience, thereby meeting consumer needs whilst generating key insights for yourself in the process. With users expecting a seamless experience whether they are on their mobile or on a desktop, enriching your understanding of usability in both modes is a great differentiator.

Don’t play favourites – It will be tempting to abandon your desktop site, in favour of mobile, but as with above, there is still a need to nurture both. Favouring your mobile sites risks alienating not just consumers, but also potential opportunities to influence either purchasing decisions or consideration.

SEO best practice shouldn’t get lost in the transition – The good news is that website owners and marketers don’t need to abandon this knowledge. Understanding how to translate it into an application’s design and content, to ensure a competitive advantage remains a priority.

Ultimately, website owners must leverage their analytics to understand how customers are viewing and engaging with their sites. Analysing this data can be a great asset for site owners who operate on mobile and desktop, highlighting for instance which platform is used most frequently and at what times. If customers are using desktop more than mobile, or vice versa, it might indicate that users prefer to consume the information on a particular mode, or suggest where sites require further optimisation.

Whilst smartphones are incredibly popular for activities like social media, messaging and catching-up with gossip and news, it is also important to consider that a large number of consumers in western markets tend to use desktop for more detailed review and purchases.

With the majority of conversions happening from a desktop in most industries, organisations may want to consider a mobile experience that allows consumers the option to defer providing information, save trolley items or complete payment at a later date, perhaps on a desktop.

Recognising the intent of use across desktop and mobile is key. A consumer searching for a product via a mobile device has more than likely a different intent than when at their desktop. For instance, a user browsing a car dealership on their smartphone will typically be looking for a more visual experience, wanting to see high-quality images across a clear layout. On the other hand that consumer might choose the desktop site for more detailed research of vehicle specifications and comparisons. Therefore, an organisation’s digital strategy should reflect that intent; ensuring that their website and app design and search marketing activities all support their consumers whilst promoting the brand itself. Utilising analytical data is again vital for website developers to make informed decisions, helping to hone and optimise an application for the most intuitive user journey and to add maximum value for the consumer, whether it is desktop or mobile.

Like with much of technology, the transition will be slow and steady, and for now, we won’t be saying goodbye to our keyboard and mouse anytime soon. In fact there is a unique opportunity to flesh out the messaging on desktop and as most consumers use more than one screen, ensure that this translates across all channels, whether desktop or mobile.

About the Author

Wayne Munday is Non-Executive Director at Rokk Media, who specialise in web development, mobile application and software solutions for businesses. Wayne has extensive experience in international sales, marketing and strategy through positions at NavTeq, MapQuest.com and AOL Inc. Having also served as the UK Managing Director for erento, CRO and Co-Founder of OTPmedia and COO at Ticket Zone, Wayne brings his digital media and business development insight to Rokk. Rokk Media assists all organisations from SMEs to large-scale corporations with their digital transformation, utilising almost 20 years’ industry knowledge and the latest technology to facilitate the strategy, design, production and support of digital projects.