Why mobile-friendly design is not the complete answer

Why mobile-friendly design is not the complete answer

Mobile-friendly design is a hot topic, and transcends all areas of web content: e-commerce, web pages, email marketing, ads, images, video, you name it. The popularity of “mobile” devices has exploded, and they are taking over “traditional” or “desktop” devices for consuming content.

This is not news, you know this already. Land your plane, Stephan. Okay, fine, but what if I told you that the reason we are so fixated on mobile friendly design has less to do with mobile devices, and more to do with the evolution of the Web as a whole? In other words…

We aren’t designing for mobile.

We never were.

We are designing for natural.

Mobile-friendly web design, responsive design

Think about the experiences commonly touted alongside arguments for mobile-friendly design, responsive design, and apps. All are based on a more natural consumption method than traditional desktop (and laptop) methods.

Want proof? Your toddler knows how to use your iPad. Better than you in some cases.

We view devices like smartphones and tablets as natural extensions of our bodies and can interact directly with our content (touch or speak to it), versus having to navigate to that content using a pointer, a la desktop & laptop.

So, at the heart of things, it isn’t “mobile” we’re talking about…it’s “natural.” Just ask your 4-year-old.

Want more proof? Companies like Google are integrating voice search into desktop, and updating their design guidelines across the board to deliver a seamless, consistent experience from desktop to mobile browser to app.

3 things a more “natural” focus (vs. “mobile-friendly”) means for design

First, everyone drop the argument that any method of designing websites, emails, videos, etc. is “better” than another. “Better” and “Best” are subjective, and if your vendor is using those phrases then you should seek another. Responsive design offers a number of benefits, but so do dedicated device-specific sites and apps. Your data and your audience are also going to dictate the most appropriate way to build out your web presence.

Related: Going Mobile: Where to Start (webcast)

Second, our challenge as web designers, content creators and marketers is to deliver to our audience a way to naturally connect with our brand, our content, and our message. There are plenty of ways to skin that cat, and what works for one will not work for another. But rest assured that your strategy will need to be more tightly integrated with all facets of your online presence (web, CRM, email, search, advertising, social, content, etc.).

Third, and most importantly, we will be most successful when we can design around a complete experience for our audience. That means making sure that every piece of content of ours that they interact with is as natural and intuitive as possible, from the initial touchpoint to the time they move onto something else.

Are you prepared for natural design?

Natural design goes beyond the tools (responsive grids, device-widths, apps, plugins, etc.). It’s a complete experience based on data, research, and understanding exactly how you want your audience to connect with your message. Then, use the most appropriate tool or tools for the job.

  • Are you designing for the most natural consumption of your content?
  • Are conversion and providing answers part of your design process?
  • Is the experience natural the whole way through, taking into account all the assets involved? (images, emails, web pages, checkout screens, etc.)

If not, you have some work to do. This isn’t going to be another buzzword, this is the philosophy of design moving forward.

About Stephan Hovnanian

I own Shovi Websites, a website design and email marketing company located outside Boston. I spend my days managing websites and staying up to speed with all the latest trends across the web so you don't have to.

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