Web Design Is About More Than Screen Size

Issue 23

As digital director at full-service marketing, advertising and digital agency The Works, Tim Mather has seen the influence mobile has had on design in recent years. Here, he discusses how audiences' behaviour has changed in the past few years and the impact that has had on design…

We all know that mobile isn’t the “new thing” or “the future”, it is very much the present and without doubt it has been the biggest driver of change in web design over recent years.

We eat, sleep and breath our smartphones. It’s estimated that around 90% of us have our phones with us day and night, 68% of us check them within 15 minutes of waking up in the morning and 30% of us feel anxious when they’re not next to us.

The increasing popularity of smartphones means we must reflect how we design websites based on our audiences’ needs. Designing for mobile was initially a complicated process that required specific mobile content, design and code, but now responsive designs degrade gracefully from desktop to mobile with little effort. But is that enough? If we’re all mobile first, should we forget about desktop entirely and just focus on mobile sites?

As the number of mobile views increases, the time each user spends on a visit decreases. We might be using the web more often, but we’re spending less time on individual tasks. Not only that, but the accessibility of smartphones means we no longer stop what we are doing to use our phones, instead using them within existing buying processes to make informed decisions quickly and efficiently. Google refers to this behaviour as “micro-moments”.

According to Google, there are four types of “micro-moments” in which a customer may use their smart device to take action.

Know Moments – someone exploring or researching but not yet in purchase mode.

Go Moments – people looking to buy locally

or see a product in the flesh.

Do Moments – people trying to find out

“How To” do something.

Buy Moments – people ready and willing

to buy.

Each of these moments represent an opportunity for your business to present itself to its audience and complete a transaction, whether that be consume content, buy a product, sign up to a newsletter or download a document. Once in the “moment”, Google then defines three basic strategies to “win” the audience.

Be There – anticipate the micro-moments for users in your industry, and then commit to being there to help when those moments occur.

Be Useful – be relevant to consumers’ needs in the moment and connect people to the answers they’re looking for.

Be Quick – mobile users want to know, go, and buy swiftly. Your mobile experience has to be fast and frictionless.

Though exaggerated by how and when we use smartphones, the above principles aren’t solely applicable to mobile. Interestingly, though mobile is likely to be the initial entry point for a customer, up to 90% of users use multiple devices (mainly desktop) to complete everyday tasks like buying groceries or booking a holiday, so I don’t think we can forget about desktop sites just yet.

What is clear is that the shift to mobile has focussed the design process on how your audience uses your site rather than how they view it. Understanding your audience should be the first priority of any design process. Critically, if your audience has changed how they buy, search, find, or consume information then it is key to ensure your business understands that change and reacts to it.

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