Most B2B website traffic comes from desktop machines. But should that stop a B2B company from taking a mobile-first approach to their website design? Some B2B marketers say there's no need to spend marketing dollars on creating a mobile friendly site, and they're not totally wrong.
However, buyers are using their mobile phones more and more to make informed decisions before making a purchase. According to research from Smart Insights, 80 percent of B2B buyers are using mobile at work. Additionally, more than 60 percent cite mobile as having played a significant role in a recent purchase.
So, while you may believe mobile is not significant, the data shows us that it very much is.
To get a better handle on why B2Bs should think about a mobile-first approach to web design and how to factor this aspect into website plans, I’m taking a seat with Will Walker, one of our team members who helps manage website projects, to get an understanding of this framework.
Q: To date, how many website redesign projects have you been a part of?
Since I’ve been at the agency, I’ve worked on three major sites and two smaller redesigns. I’ve been on the project management and design side of the process.
Q: Can you define what it means to take a mobile-first approach?
Taking a mobile-first approach means taking into consideration the size limits of building an engaging user experience on the smallest screen before thinking about a common desktop experience. You start with mobile proportions and functionality, then as you solidify those elements you take a look at how to translate them to a desktop.
Q: Should B2Bs take a mobile-first approach to website design?
Current trends certainly tell us that the majority of general internet users are browsing the web via smartphones, and all B2B companies will surely have an evident part of their traffic that is going to the site on mobile. But for the most part, we generally see 60-80 percent of traffic on B2B websites coming from desktops. The mobile experience isn't always the first impression someone has with a B2B company, whereas it may be the only experience a consumer has with a consumer brand.
Still, you should still take mobile-first into consideration when redesigning your B2B website. Not only does taking this approach help your site for better performance in search (search engines give priority to mobility optimized sites), but it helps you stay ahead of the curve when mobile search becomes less of a trend and more of the norm.
We use a hybrid approach for most of our website clients. When we conduct a redesign initiative for our clients, we normally start by identifying those pages that are most important and benefit the most from something exciting on the desktop version. However, we have to keep in mind that it will have to translate to mobile.
If you’re looking just to fix your baseline design and revamp your site, taking a mobile-first approach can help cut out some steps in getting that website mobile-optimized. But if you’re just looking to create a more engaging, intriguing, and impactful experience, we find it’s often better for B2Bs to focus more on the desktop experience while remembering to keep mobile top of mind.
Q: At what point in the project should mobile be discussed?
It’s dependent on your business’s traffic. If you’re seeing the trends on your website revealing that mobile is increasing by 20 percent or more year-over-year, or if your site has a significant amount of mobile traffic, then that should be a key indicator that you should move forward with a mobile-first design.
Other places it makes sense are in competitive SEO scenarios. For example, if you’re up against bigger companies with established websites and presence on a number of priority keywords, then having a mobile-first approach will add to your site's mobile performance and give you an SEO advantage. That extra bump for being mobile-first can be quite helpful if your rivals lack a good mobile experience.
At a minimum, bump up your focus on mobile from where you would traditionally have it in the process. Often when you’re planning a new website, you’ll go through a few initial rounds of designs focused on desktop and only think about mobile after several iterations. Instead, think about the mobile option for desktop features soon after ideation.
Q: We've talked about design, but how does mobile impact the development of a website?
Overall, you won't significantly increase or decrease your total time creating a new site. However, mobile-first will shift where you spend your time. In traditional website design, you spend a lot of time optimizing for mobile in the QA phase. By bumping that mobile consideration up to the design process, you’re able to give your developers a better idea of how things should behave on mobile. You end up spending time up front in the design and development phase that reduces the time spent in QA and the number of changes you have to make right before a website goes live.
Q: What have been some obstacles you’ve experienced with mobile design?
Some of the biggest challenges are determining where you want your mobile breakpoints to be. Breakpoints are the screen sizes at which the design switches over to the mobile optimized version. There’s a vast variety of screen sizes – it’s not just phones, it’s also tablets. Within those categories, you still have several screen proportions to take into account. One of the roadblocks is discovering those common breakpoints that you want to program for. That needs to be based on your target market – what kinds of devices do they use and what kind of features are allowed in the mobile browsers on those devices.
Q: Is responsiveness synonymous with mobile design?
Responsiveness is a component of mobile design, but it’s not synonymous; it’s just one way to approach mobile design. Responsiveness is building your site in a way that the elements on the page dynamically resize and adjust based on the size of the window. It comes into play on desktop as well. Think of how you resize your browser window and the elements automatically get larger or smaller.
A responsive site is really more "mobile friendly" than mobile optimized. Mobile friendly sites use responsiveness as a way to make it usable, but a mobile-first approach creates mobile optimized sites that are specific to leveraging the unique aspects of mobile devices (touch screens, vertical orientations, etc.)
Q: What are some payoffs you see from B2B implementing mobile first design?
You definitely will have an SEO boost, just because the algorithms are starting to favor the mobile-optimized sites more often. Also, as you’re keeping mobile in mind, that’s going to reduce the size of images and content that you use and apply, which will increase the speed and performance of your site as you scale up into desktop.
The biggest reward is that you’re securing a consistent brand experience. This is extremely crucial once you start engaging with a prospect. Once someone is in the sales funnel, they’ll reference your site across multiple devices before making a decision. Ensuring that the site is consistent through multiple devices is vital to addressing the user's needs across their buyer journey.
Q: If you have one takeaway to give a B2B who is thinking of redesigning or starting a new website, what would it be?
You have to focus on both desktop and mobile – as soon in the design process as you can. Make this decision and prioritize your investment based on your site's unique traffic.
Thank you, Will, for taking the time for sharing your insights. As you start to think about your next redesign, it is clear that incorporating mobile design earlier in your process is important. And if you have increasingly more mobile traffic, mobile-first design is a great way to ensure impactful user experiences.