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It’s no secret that people are accessing websites on their mobile phones in ever-increasing numbers. Website designers initially responded by optimizing websites for reading on mobile and rearranging the existing elements of the page. The problem with this approach is that it doesn’t address the way in which people view pages on their smartphones. Each page felt like it was shoehorned into the limited screen space of a smartphone. Now, designers are focusing on creating smartphone-friendly websites for viewing on both the desktop and phone. Following are some of the ways this approach is changing website design.

APIs That Speed Up Checkout Processes

API, or application program interface, tells software components how they should work with one another. They’re also used in the programming of graphical user interface components such as buttons you click on. Mobile sites rely heavily on APIs instead of links to pages. It’s far easier to click on a button than it is to zoom in on a tiny hyperlink and try to get it to respond on the first tap. This is true even when using a larger smartphone such as the LG G6 on T-Mobile’s reliable high-speed network. Phone size can’t easily overcome tiny text and hyperlinks, and APIs save the day by making it easier to move from page to page.

Responsive Design

Websites with responsive design deliver a stripped-down version of the main website to the mobile user. The site has programming to detect when the user is accessing the page from a smartphone and sends out only the most vital elements of the page for viewing. If the user feels that they need more of the page, they can click a link to use the desktop version instead. The only downside to this is that the desktop version may not be easily viewed on the smartphone.

This type of website design requires the site owner to decide what information gets delivered and what’s left off. Prioritizing information may not always be advantageous, as people looking at the site may not dig deeper for more information.

Fewer Elements on a Page

Websites used to trend toward having multiple, feature-rich design elements on their landing pages. The thought process was to make a site as interesting as possible to keep the user involved and not leave the page. That line of thinking has largely disappeared as mobile browsing has taken over how people interface with websites. Designers now think of the mobile user first and how they can deliver targeted information with rapid loading times.

One of the issues that site designers face is the fact that not everyone is using the latest and greatest smartphone with the fastest processor. A graphic-heavy site takes longer to load on a slower phone and is more likely to cause the user to leave the page. Designers are now stripping down websites to the necessities. Fewer images to load and easily digested content in chunks have become the norm. The sites still fill up the browser on a smartphone, but load quickly and present relevant information up front.

Graceful Degradation

Similar to responsive design, graceful degradation is an approach that involves taking the original desktop design and purposefully reshaping it to fit different mobile devices. How is this possible? When a mobile user accesses a website, the phone browser sends out a notification to the website that it’s being accessed from a mobile device. The website has programming to recognize this notification and respond appropriately. Instead of replying with the desktop version of the site, it will deploy the mobile version instead. The user has little clue that they’re receiving a website that’s designed specifically for their phone unless they notice the “m.” in front of the URL that denotes the mobile version of the site.

These are some of the ways mobile-first is changing how designers lay out websites. While it is a response to how people access the internet through their smartphones, it’s also a new stage in the evolution of how people look at websites in general.


 
 
 

 
 

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