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Mobile First Development: Should We Abandon the Desktop?

In the past, many web designers and online experts approached the desktop side of their projects first, before considering mobile optimisation as an additional "bolt-on" when everything else was finished. Even as "responsive" web design began to grow more popular during 2015, many designers preferred to start with the "full size" website and work their way down into small mediums. However, as we begin to discover just how pervasive mobile browsing has become, a growing trend has begun to start flipping the workflow around and start with the mobile considerations first.

In March 2015, the number of mobile-only browsers surpassed desktop users for the first time. Since then, web design companies have begun to take the "mobile first" approach much more seriously. As both personal and business users start to make the move away from tethered desks and desktop work stations, the online world must evolve for a market that prefers to connect from any device, at any time, anywhere. Here, we'll look at the differences between mobile and desktop development, and whether it's time to abandon the desktop for good.

Desktop Design Vs. Mobile Design

Today, it's still common for some web designers to begin by building wireframes for your website that doesn't include mobile ready code. In the world that we currently live in, it's safe to say that this could be a very backward approach. After all, mobile is no longer the "future" of browsing, it's the present.

That being said, it's important to remember that the desktop development process might not be dead just yet. After all, there are still occasions when you might visit a mobile-friendly website on your smartphone, and you still want to see the desktop version. Additionally, desktop sites remain an essential feature for anyone who prefers to access their online information from the comfort of a full-sized computer screen.

The key for most companies won't be abandoning the desktop site in favour of something smaller and more agile. Instead, the idea is to create something that feels natural across any medium. As mobile becomes more of an organic experience for searchers, you'll need a site that's capable of providing for the mobile browsers, while still giving desktop users the comfort and convenience they need.

Mobile and Desktop Development for Content

Though much of the focus for mobile and desktop website design tends to be on making sure that buttons and navigation work well across devices, it's worth acknowledging the importance of optimising content too. According to studies, web users are almost twice as likely to share the content they read on their mobile devices, then they are to share from their desktops.

If you want to create an experience that's comprehensive and inclusive for all users, then you need to make sure that you're designing a website and a content structure that's diverse and versatile. For instance, if your social sharing buttons work on desktop sites but not on mobile, then you could be missing out on a huge amount of branding potential.

According to Google, it's possible for website owners to display completely different content to a user depending on whether they choose to visit a page from a desktop or mobile device. When it comes to web development, the real value of your content will be in how it's displayed. Unlike on desktop environments, with mobile solutions, you can hide and distribute content under menus that adapt to the side of your preferred screen. This means that you can streamline the viewing space on a page, and help your users to access a more seamless online experience.

To get the most out of your content, the best solution may be to stop trying to place desktop content on mobile versions of pages. Though it might not be time to throw away the desktop website just yet, it could be time to abandon desktop content completely. Rather than writing content that has been specifically designed for your desktop experience, optimise and organise your content for mobile devices first, then use that on your desktop too!

Desktop Optimisation Vs. Mobile Optimisation

When it comes to understanding mobile first development, there's a good chance that you'll want to know more about how you can optimise your content for better rankings. After all, regardless of whether your customers are coming to you from a computer or smartphone, they still need to find your content on the search engines first.

For as long as mobile algorithms continue to use desktop content to help establish ranking metrics, keyword optimisation for mobile should be no different to keyword optimisation for desktop. In fact, there are few optimisation issues that will be different depending on whether you're designing for desktop and mobile. Most of the time, optimisation that is good for desktop will be great for mobile too. However, one key thing you'll need to remember is that for mobile users, experience comes first.

When you're trying to rank high on mobile, you'll need to make sure that you're giving your users the same consistent experience that they can expect on desktop. That will ensure lower bounce rates, and help you to maintain your authority score. At the same time, keep in mind that a lot of mobile searchers spend their time looking for local answers to their questions. In other words, it might be helpful to adjust for local SEO.

Desktop Still Matters for ROI

Although it's important to note that mobile has taken over desktop in terms of use and access, it's also crucial to recognise that desktop continues to outshine mobile in the area of advertisement ROI. Perhaps it's simply that advertisements are less aggressive on a desktop screen than a smaller mobile device. Whatever the reason, it's clear to see that you may not be able to forsake desktop design just yet. Until we completely stop using desktop computers, both forms of development will be essential. For as long as the computer reigns on, today's business will need to optimise for desktop and mobile sites simultaneously.

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