Designing for Mobile First – How to Design Websites to Fit Small Screen Devices

When businesses configure websites for mobile viewing, they often start by taper down traditional desktop websites instead of designing for mobile first. But times are changing. As we move further into a new decade, this previous tradition is being flipped on its head. Mobile-first design is becoming an increasingly important factor for boosting site performance and overall sales, improving interaction on small-screen smartphone devices.

What It Means to Design for Mobile First

Mobile designs make viewing and navigating websites easier on devices such as smartphones and tablets. By designing for mobile first instead of converting your current website, you create a more user-friendly structure on mobile devices.

The process starts by building your system based on the smallest screens (smartphones), structuring content in a more concise format with limited offerings for improved mobile viewing and interaction. Once the framework is set, the concept is expanded out to work with desktop and laptop systems where the details of your business can be laid out similar to a traditional website.

The Benefits of Designing for Mobile First

Improved User Experience

Mobile-first design is the best method for creating highly effective responsive designs. By starting with the smallest screens first, your site is better laid out, organized, and suited for mobile navigation. Your content fits better, requires fewer edits, and navigation strategies such as hamburger menus and combo navigation make it easier for users to find and purchase what they need faster than a traditional site. When viewers visit the website on a larger desktop screen, this mobile framework is easier to adapt to larger formats.

Designing for mobile first solves customer needs quickly and concisely by limiting content to what is most relevant. Doing this makes the process of finding needed information and buying products easier for users, increasing the chance of a sale, and making your site an ongoing source for their needs, boosting your brand recognition.

In today’s world of online attention spans running only two-to-three seconds, providing what users need quickly is more important than ever. Without a strong mobile framework that is intuitive, simple, and draws them in, you work against your marketing efforts.

Having a fluid and easy-to-read mobile website causes fewer roadblocks, improving the experience and speed in transactions. Designing for mobile first is the best way to maintain the cleanest presence on any mobile device.

Mobile-first design an important first step for those focused on capturing a mobile audience, and this audience is now more important than ever.

Mobile Demand

According to Pew Research Center , as of 2019, 96% of Americans own a cellphone, and 81% of those phones are smartphones. This is up from only 35% in 2011. Also, nearly half of all adult Americans own a tablet. Since three-quarters of adult Americans own computers, there are currently more smartphones used than computers.

From a worldwide perspective, smartphones are a more accessible tool for going online than desktop or laptop computers. Statista found that global website site traffic from mobile devices has climbed from 16.2% in 2013 to 52.2% in 2019. That is over half of all global website traffic, and this does not include tablet usage. This trend is only expected to continue. Being ready for this audience keeps your business at the forefront of online interaction.

Mobile is becoming the primary way of connecting with friends and work and viewing social media, and shopping online, making it easy to provide quick and easy promotional messages anywhere customers are.

Improved Results on Google:

Mobile platforms increase your overall online performance, boosting your rankings on Google. A powerful way to achieve this is by designing for mobile first. The idea isn’t new, and was even promoted by Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt back in 2010. He predicted mobile-first design would become the future of conveying information online, and began implementing the strategy within the company’s own designs. As he stated, “the answer should always be mobile first.”

A primary trait of any website design is to rank high on Google. The closer your company is to the first page results, the more traffic and sales you get. Mobility design is a chief component of it. Google’s algorithm ranks mobile-friendly websites higher than those without. This should be reason enough to optimize your site.

Pros and Cons of Mobile Design

Designing for mobile first does bring challenges worth knowing beforehand.

Limited-Content Format


  • By streamlining your content to work within a mobile platform, you put the most important information first, which is the most relevant information your customers want. Limiting the content in this way helps solve needs faster, resulting in a quicker call-to-action and sales than would be in place for a data-heavy site.


  • When tapering down traditional online systems into mobile applications, the information can become difficult to read and navigate because the website wasn’t designed for this purpose. This increases the potential of a user clicking away to find another site that is easier to use. Using a mobile-first strategy helps ensure the navigation and buying process is fast and straightforward.



  • Limiting content on screens also reduces traffic to other areas of your site. Promoting a wealth of information is better on larger screen


  • Smaller, faster design formats are not always easy to plan and implement. Creating it can require your best design talent or an experienced outside provider. This method of building your online presence is growing each year, so these factors should be accounted for when doing new or future website


Faster Engagement


Faster engagement means faster sales and top-of-mind brand awareness whenever a user needs your services. With mobile users needing information on the fly, having an easy-to-use format is integral.


With the faster engagement comes lower engagement. Users are working fast and don’t use small devices as often to dig into the full list of offerings as they do on desktop and laptop websites. In many cases, a hamburger menu helps users navigate further into the website. Sometimes combo navigation is used, keeping the most important elements clearly displayed, such as “Sign In” or “Buy” buttons or a scrolling banner at the top for a range of products in a particular category. Users have the information they need only when it is relevant, reducing website clutter.




As we said before, simple, straight, and direct communication is key when communicating with mobile users, and this is especially true when it comes to e-commerce. A simple interface retains users while also passing along important messages for more sales. This makes it more important than ever to begin looking at mobile-first design.


Currently, more people prefer to purchase on desktop and laptops. It should be noted, however, that this trend is quickly changing. According to Statista, by 2021, mobile devices are projected to account for over 53% of e-commerce sales.

Simpler Programming


Though designing for mobile first is harder to strategize and build at the outset, this strategy requires less programming than you would with a traditional site. This means there is less risk of bugs and making needed repairs is easier, saving your business time and money down the road.


You will face a greater need for experienced programmers to build the initial framework. If this falls outside your company’s abilities, hiring an outside source may be the answer.



With the extreme growth of mobile device usage and higher ranking from Google on mobile-first platforms, this makes it the right time to consider designing for mobile first.  Providing a simple and easy-to-use website presence boosts sales and brand loyalty, keeping your business top of mind. And if issues in programming develop, they are easier to resolve on the backend. To find out more of what this system can do for you, contact us here.