What We Mean by “Mobile First”

You may be hearing a lot of people in the marketing world these days making use of the phrase, “mobile first”. We’re guilty of using it right here in a set of recent blog posts:

Mobile First Email Design & Mobile First Web Design

But what do we mean when we say “mobile first”?

We mean developing something first for mobile devices, and then making sure it also suits your needs on desktops and laptops, and not the other way around.

Sounds simple enough, right? But for most people this does not come naturally. Whole generations of people grew up in an age when the mobile web did not exist, or was still just coming of age. So when we are designing something for the web, we think of desktops. We automatically “see” the online world through a big monitor-shaped window.

But the mobile web is here. It’s growing rapidly. For many people, it’s the primary way they access the web. For many companies, it makes up more than 50% of total site traffic.

So in a mobile-first world, we need mobile-first design. When your designer begins to mock up a new page, or form, or tool, or ad for the web, they should do it on a phone-sized template. Design it for a phone, then adapt it for larger screens. It’s the only way to change how you think about your consumers and the way they are actually using the web.

And that’s necessary in order to create online experiences that really resonate with today’s audiences and consumers.

Mobile First Web Design

What do we mean when we talk about “mobile-first design”? Well, it’s actually quite simple. We mean that when you sit down to design something for the web, you design it for mobile specifically, and think about other formats second.

Most design today is desktop-first. Unless you are developing a mobile application, most designers and product developers still think in terms of desktop users.

The problem with that is, mobile as a percent of all web users is rising fast, and will soon overtake desktop users for the majority of companies and websites in the world. Check your Google Analytics and you’ll find out just how many of your visitors are coming from mobile devices. It might already be more than 50%.

My recommendation is, no matter who you are, the next time you redesign or redevelop your website, you should approach the project mobile first.


  • Have your designer do their initial mockups using the screen size of the most popular phone on the market
  • Use buttons, large fonts, and clean, simplistic designs that appeal to mobile users
  • Take extra care in your navigation to make it easy to find what users are looking for without too many steps
  • Make the big calls to action, like calling or purchasing out, persistent throughout the site, even when a user scrolls
  • Once you have settled on a mobile design you all like, then work backwards to determine what they will look like on a desktop or larger screen size

Small Changes Can Have Big Impacts

Yesterday’s post about website testing brought in a number of questions about website changes and testing in general. It seems that there is a general consensus, at least among my readers, that testing is important for marketers. But what to test is a point of debate.

Big or small?

Many marketers tell me that testing small changes is not good enough. They are looking for, or their bosses are looking for big impacts. They want results that matter – double digit increases in sales, twice the amount of conversions, more visits, more money, more everything.

I understand that. We all have goals to hit. We all have bosses to answer to.

But the truth about testing is that small changes can have big impacts. Changing the copy on a button can increase clicks by 10%. Simplifying a form can lead to a 20% increase in the number of people that submit it. Something as simple as swapping out an image has led to increases of up 50% in landing page conversions.

On a large enough scale, any increase is a big one. Think about going from 20 sales per day to 22. That’s a 10% increase. But if each sale is worth $100, that’s $200. Over the course of a year that’s an additional $73,000.

Make a few small changes that each have a 10% increase and you’re talking about a really big transformation for your business.

So the key with testing is, nothing is too small. You don’t know what will have the biggest impacts until you start.

3 Tips for Better Readability

If you write something, you likely want people to read it.

For marketers, you definitely want people to read it. We spend hours writing copy for web pages, ads, emails, articles, social media posts, etc. All of that copy has a purpose. And it only works if people read it.

But people’s habits have changed. They are blind to advertising because they are blitzed by it. They read less online because they have less time.

So how can you make sure your writing – whether it’s in ads, emails, social media, or your website – gets read?

Here are three tips for better readability:

  1. Learn the art of headline writing. A well-crafted headline can make all the difference. And I don’t mean writing “click-bait” headlines that get people to click on posts only to anger them once they see the full content and are disappointed. Sorry Buzzfeed. I mean headlines that genuinely appeal to your intended reader, that introduce the concept and give them a real reason to continue reading.
  2. Use bullets and numbered lists. If you take less of someone’s time, chances are they will be more likely to pay attention. If someone says, “I need 5 minutes of your time”, you’ll be more agreeable than when someone says, “I need an hour of your time”. So the best way to condense content and make reading easier is with lists. Lists make people feel better about the content they’re reading. It feels faster and more fluid.
  3. Incorporate other media. Are you using the written word for a reason? Could you accomplish the same goal, or get across the same message with an image, diagram, video clip? Mixing in other media forms is a great way to get more people to see or hear your message. Using short form video and imagery can make a page or email less boring, and more likely it will get read or watched.

You want to get your message across. So use these tips to start creating messages that are easier to read.

Marketing Yourself with a Website

Why would you ever want to market yourself?

I can think of a few reasons. Maybe you want to get a job. Maybe you want to sign a client. Maybe you want to grow a following outside of your 9-5.

Whatever your reason, it’s important to know how to market yourself. Even if you don’t have a reason now, you never know when the time will come when you need (or want) a new job. And if you’ve been preparing all along, the task won’t seem as daunting.

Yesterday we discussed how to market yourself with LinkedIn. Today, let’s talk about how to market yourself with a website.

Having your own personal website puts you in control of your online persona. Instead of relying on a pre-built platform like Facebook or LinkedIn, a website puts all the power in your hands. You can customize the way it looks, the content you share, and how people can interact with you.

To be clear, a website does not replace a LinkedIn profile. Rather, you should have both. But you should use your personal website to help attract potential clients or employers.

On your website you can write articles, or link to others you’ve published outside your own website. You can link to your resume and LinkedIn profile. You can add a simple contact form and list other ways people might get in touch with you.

Your website should highlight your past achievements, showcase content or projects that you put together, and tell people why you’re an expert in any given area.

And when you do apply for a job, include your personal website on your resume and in the application process. Many employers will ask for your site URL directly. Having one helps you stand out from the crowd.