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Web designers in the modern age of portable Internet-enabled devices are learning an awful lot about mobile website design — but there’s one key lesson that mobile design is trying to teach us that we’re just not really listening to: the lesson of focus.
It’s still very normal for a web designer to build a desktop site and load it up with doohickeys, thingamabobs, and whosie-whatsits so that it can do absolutely everything the client might want to do all from one central home page. Then, when it comes time to design a mobile site, they start by looking at the desktop site and tearing it apart, hacking off the extraneous stuff until they get to what the client thinks is the ‘core’ of the website — and that’s what the mobile site is built around.
This is silly.
The right way to go about a mobile website redesign is to start with the base website and use Google Analytics, heatmap testing, and user interviews to determine what people actually do when they come to the website. (This is a good idea regardless of whether you’re getting a mobile redesign or not, because knowing what people actually do with your website can help you make functional and affordable SEO choices.)
Then you take the data about what the customers actually do on your website and you use that to focus your mobile website on the things that the customers actually care about.
If you’re just getting your website developed for the first time — or if you’re about to commit to a major website overhaul — consider getting your mobile site designed first, and using responsive design to make your main site an extension of your mobile site. There’s no particular reason you should have to have two sites: we have the technology to make a single site fit any screen, and the focus of the two sites should be identical: it should be on what the customer intends to do with the site.
Serve the customer first. Mobile websites understand that — it’s time our desktop sites were designed with the same principles in mind.