GUI Optimization for Better Conversions

Optimizing Your Graphical User Interface – Case Study

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Designers like cool widgets. These can hinder GUI optimization, however. In the end, your site serves the purpose of your visitor, not the purpose of your designer.
 Phil Chavanne, Snr SEO Consultant

During this user experience session, we cover our interaction with the home page of the Accenture website, a beautiful site that presents a couple of issues with the optimization of the Graphic User Interface.

We downloaded the site and started our journey, scrolling down the home page, first using the scroll bar, then the mouse wheel.

At first the scroll down motion is smooth and predictable. At some point however, we enter a wide section of negative space, with some sort of a greater-than symbol.

GUI optimization issue: Animation

As we continue to roll the mouse wheel, the scrolling down motion stops, and the V expands on the screen.

Our discovery experience is interrupted. There is no way to bypass the animation, we have to let it play to the end. The mouse wheel doesn’t bring us down the page anymore, the man-machine interface has switched function.

At the end of the animation, we reach another area with an edge-to-edge photo; and the same animation but reverted: the scroll down motion stops, and we are forced to go along with the animation until it reaches its conclusion.

GUI issue: second animation

Now we back our way up using the mouse, and we meet the same issues. We have to obey the will of the web designer and play the animations till they end, before we are allowed to continue our quest for information.

Observations on User Experience

All this happens in a matter of seconds, but during this time, our user experience has been subjected to 2 bothersome events:

(a) An unpredictable interruption in the operation of the mouse wheel;

(b) We were forced to obey the web designer’s will, instead of going on with our own discovery journey.

In our opinion, this design feature violates a couple of well-proven GUI rules.

3 Well-Proven GUI OPTIMIZATION Rules

    • A user interface must remain predictable and consistent. A mouse wheel is designed to scroll up and down a screen. When it stops working as predicted, its regular operation seems disabled, and this leads our mind to wonder if something is broken in the man-machine linkage.


GUI rule - Keep your GUI predictable consistent


    • Visitors are on your website to discover information, not to dwell on how cool your design is. When you invert these priorities, you impose your will on their intent

This is the case of sliders with layers of textual information which force users to wait for the next layer to display. Your will, not theirs.

If they can, they will bypass these sliders, and you will lose an opportunity to provide them the information for which they can to your website in the first place. GUI optimization seeks to help your visitors accomplish the purpose for which they came to your site.


GUI rule - Help your visitors accomplish their purpose


    • Do not interrupt the discovery journey of your visitors. Offer them options, crossroads, places of choice, but keep the flow going. No one likes to be interrupted.

We love things flowing smoothly. We dislike unwanted, unpredictable events that disrupt our activities.


GUI rule - Don't interrupt the flow


In Conclusion

This is a great website. But violating these GUI optimization rules does not serve the purpose of the website. Using this animation serves more the purpose of the designer than the purpose of the visitor.

Mobile First Sites: Designing for Outdoor Use

Mobile First Sites: Designing for Outdoor Use

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We use our mobile phones in weird and stressful circumstances. Web designers must re-think their mobile GUIs to minimize the negative effects of external, non-controllable constraints on the browsing experience.
 Phil Chavanne, Snr SEO Consultant

This is Part V on our series on mobile-optimized websites (aka “Mobile First Sites“). We will deal here with issues of legibility related to how mobile phones are used.

Mobile-optimized websites must be designed with the specific circumstances of their use in mind; and this is just another reason why “just responsive websites” are a thing of the past.

Mobile phones: keeping close tabs on them

Mobile phones rarely leave our line of sight, and when they do, research shows we really feel bummed out. A term was coined in the UK in 2012 to designate this fear: “Nomophobia“, a “fear of not having your phone around”.

According to a study conducted by Monash University in Australia, some 99.2% of the Australian population using mobile phones would have nomophobia (really?).  A study conducted in 2019 on a small sample of the U.S. population of university students showed that 75% of them would present moderate-to-severe symptoms of nomophobia.


Nomophobia and the prison of mobile phones


Since we apparently don’t like to be separated from our mobile phones, it is safe to assume that we use them everywhere: at home (in the weirdest places), at work (where we may not be allowed to), and everywhere in-between.

A couple of statistics clearly show this is indeed the case:

      • 70% of employees keep their phones “within eye contact” at work. [Career Builder, 2016]
      • 88% of smartphone owners use their phone while driving on average 3.5 minutes/hour every day. [Zendrive, 2021]
      • 80% of shoppers use a mobile phone in a physical store. [OuterBoxDesign]

What does this imply for web designers?

A Variety of Situations

In a previous blog post, we discussed a variety of situations in which we use our mobile phones:

      • In our vehicle
      • Out in the street
      • With and without readers
      • At the office
      • With children in tow, babies in arms
      • At restaurants, coffee shops
      • In stores
      • Etc, etc, etc.


Using a smart phone in many different situations: the reason why mobile first sites


In all these situations, we highlighted 3 external constraints impacting visual experience:

      • Lighting conditions
      • Speed of visual interaction
      • Situational stress

All 3 of these constraints are likely to cause a user to bounce off our mobile site faster than normal (not good for SEO and lead generation).

Let’s dive into each one to discuss how a Mobile First site will tackle them.


The LED screen of a mobile phone emits a good amount of light at a short distance, but contends with a much more powerful source of light: the sun. The glare of the sunlight on a phone screen make it harder to use it outdoor. You can’t outpower the sun. You can’t count on people to use anti-glare screens on their phones either.

As a web designer therefore, if you want to ensure your Mobile First website remains legible, boost the contrast of your mobile design.

The eye and the brain perceive objects by differentiating them from their background. Shape and color are perceived almost simultaneously (See reference study). Color catches the eye but color alone does not identify the object for the brain. Contour, form, or shape does. The cleaner its contour, the more identifiable the object. Contour includes 3 dimensions, as depth defines the limits of the surface of the object.


visual contrast and clean edges


A “clean” contour means a sharp differentiation of the edge of an object from its background. As web designers we work in 2 dimensions, and add artificial shadows and a Z axis to create the illusion of depth. Sometimes we use the 4th dimension, time, with animation.

But the web is essentially two-dimensional, and flat objects can’t count on relief (3D form) to be further differentiated from their background.

The sharper their edge, the more readily identifiable objects become.

Let’s take an example. The letter “F” is shown here in 4 different ways:


Differences of lebility stemming from contrast between object and background


Obviously, #2 and #4 are more identifiable than #1 and #3. The edge of the letter is crisper, sharper, more differentiated in instances #2 and #4, and much more fuzzy in #1 and #3.

The background color does not help. We measured the contrast ratios of each set (foreground color vs. background color) using the accessibility tool offered by WebAIM:

      • #1    CR= 1.15:1
      • #2    CR= 3.99:1
      • #3    CR= 1.55:1
      • #4    CR= 6.48:1

In cases #1 and #3, the shape/contour of the letter F isn’t quite easily as perceivable as in cases #2 and #4.

The contrast ratio of #2 is about 61% that of #4. Yet both letters can be easily perceived. Their contour is clearly differentiated from the background.

If color takes a backseat to contour, it definitely accentuates contrast or decreases it. Try looking at your mobile screen in bright sunlight and reading yellow (or light grey) letters against white background. You will be fighting with a lack of contrast due to the power of the sun.

In WW I, French soldiers where doning light blue uniforms. German soldiers uniforms were dark green-brown. Guess who was killed more easily against the muddy backdrop of the terrain in Northern France?

Here is an example of the impact of color on legibility:


Example of the impact of color on contrast and legibility


The 4 letters present the following contrast ratios:

      • #1   2.51:1
      • #2   1.37:1
      • #3   6.38:1
      • #4   1.31:1

Letters #1 and #3 are sharply differentiated against their background, but “red bleeds over green” and the contour of the letter F in #1 isn’t as sharp as in #3. Although #2 and #4 have almost the same contrast ratio (1.37:1 vs. 1.31:1) and their edges are still well defined against the white backdrop… green stands out better against white than light grey against white.

Color accentuates or decreases differentiation between foreground and background.

It can make the contour of an object appear more fuzzy when the background color blends into the object color.

A good illustration of this phenomenon is the difficulty facing graphic artists when they need to separate two objects of similar color, like a black tire against the asphalt of the road.


Illustration of the lack of visual contrast at the contract patch of the tire and the asphalt


The designer of a Mobile First site will take contrast into consideration in the very early phase of the design, when defining the color palette of the site, the color of the fonts and the color of the background.

This is one of the reasons why the “Mobile First” philosophy changes design habits: designers can’t just design for the desktop and “hope for the best” for the mobile site. On mobile, tested in various conditions, the resulting website may be very difficult to read, and ultimately call for a redesign.

Size and separation of design elements

Speed of visual interaction is the second external constraint bearing on mobile site design.

We often use our mobile phones in situations where time is a factor: looking for an emergency plumber; finding quickly the location of a restaurant when driving to the place; answering text messages as the red light turns to green; comparing online prices when we are in a store; etc.

Considering time is of the essence, a mobile-optimized website will have certain qualities: it will download fast, clearly show where to find relevant information, and display such information to make it easy to interface with it.

We wrote about the topics of mobile speed and information hierarchy earlier in our series on Mobile First sites, and we also discussed graphical user interface, notably in relationship with the tools we use to interact with phones: our fingers, mainly.

Although our fingers are pretty good at macro motions, they can be clumsy when the design objects display on the surface of a mobile screen are small and too close together. So the size factor plays a role in the legibility and usability of a mobile phone interface.

Mobile usability is impacted by the degree of separation and proximity of design elements.

Too close to each other, desgn objects can’t be handled easily. Too far from each other, their functional relationship may become difficult to grasp quickly. We’ll discuss this specific aspect in a later post.

Google’s engineers have worked to make designers more aware of the separation/proximity issue: the Google Search Console sends us messages to warn us that elements are too close to each other, and urges us to take action (under penalty of seeing our rankings fall off the sky).


Google Search Console Design Warning


Because Google only identifies these issues programmatically (algorithmically, without human intervention), the warnings are not always right. But they deserve a look, if only to make sure our mobile site is indeed usable as intended.

Compounding ergonomic issues, the speed at which we have to make choices — because of the circumstances in which we use our mobile phone — makes usability a real problem when design elements are too close to each other, or not contrasted enough to easily recognize them and their function.

Lastly, for those of us who are 40 and over, if we consult our mobile phone in our car or even in the street, chances are we don’t wear readers… which makes interacting with bad design a real source of frustration. Again, contrast, size, and degree of separation of the design elements will impact mobile user experience in a variety of unfavorable situations.

An example from the real world 

We are in a car, and looking for “Chinese restaurants near me” to select one based on description, proximity, and reviews. We are using Google Maps, the absolute best finder of “Chinese restaurants near me” ever devised on the web. It’s a last-minute decision, and we are near closing time. The car is stopped; we are good drivers, we are not driving and reading our phone at the same time.

This is what Google Maps shows us. Considering the above, what would you change in this GUI to make it more usable?


Searching for a Chinese restaurant on Google Maps - Busy GUI            Finding information about a selected Chiense restaurant on Google Maps - WTMI


Spoiler alert: If you have followed the explanation above, you’ll probably have answered that the elements are too small and too close to eath other.

And you would be right!

There are several other issues with this GUI design, but we keep our powder dry for another blog post.

Situational Stress

We all have been in situations where we had to make decisions under immediate stress. The hormonal secretions caused by stress (“fight or flight”) have an effect on our vision. A well-researched aspect of this issue is the “tunnel vision” effect that sets in when we drive at high speed. Tunnel vision is a focusing of the field of vision and a decreasing of peripheral vision. When we have “tunnel vision”, we are less able to see things around.

Stress also creates “mental chaos”, a temporary incapacity to focus on a task. If you have ever been trying to help someone in accomplishing a technical task requiring a lot of attention under stressful conditions, you have a representation of what “mental chaos” or “mental dispersion” is.

Tech support hotlines are manned up with staffers who, beyond their technical savvy, can also tolerate intense emotional behaviors: angry or tearful callers who don’t know what they are looking at, and won’t easily look where you want them to look to resolve the situation they call for.


stress and emotional outbursts


Since we use our mobile phones in all kinds of situations we probably shouldn’t, or simply under unfavorable circumstances and pressed by time constraints, we are liable to miss some of the clues the website we are looking at is giving us. This is particularly true of graphical user interfaces with small, low-contrast objects.

One such instance is “neumorphic design”: beautiful design, but very difficult to read on a mobile phone.


neumorphic interface objects


Not being able to see or find what we need when we need it (in a hurry) induces more stress and frustration. Chances are we take it out on the website and bounce off really quick, with a bad experience.

Never mind that this bad experience is, to a large degree, due to our specific browsing circumstances. We will assign the blame to the website.

For the sake of their clients, therefore, web designers must conceive mobile GUIs that minimize the incidence of situational stress.

IN Summary

External constraints such as sun light, stress, and speed of interaction impact visitors’ browsing experience. In turn, this experience affects their behavior vis-à-vis the website they visit.

A mobile GUI that is not calibrated for outdoor use and ignores those external constraints will lead to the premature loss of potential leads… A situation which stands at the wrong end of your client’s expectations.

Mobile First sites are designed from the ground up with the external constraints of outdoor use in mind.  

Mobile First Websites: Graphical User Interface (GUI)

Mobile First Websites: Graphical User Interface (GUI)

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A “responsive” replica of your desktop site is a sorry excuse for a mobile site. ‘Mobile First’ sites are purpose-built… or they don’t generate the leads and sales you need.
— Phil Chavanne, Snr SEO Consultant

In Part I of this series about mobile-optimized sites (“Mobile First sites”), we alluded to the rules mobile sites must conform to in order to find grace in the eyes of Google. In Part II, we looked at the need for speed as browsing and searching happen increasingly on mobile devices, and consumers prefer speedy sites.

In this new part, we’ll discuss how the design (GUI) of a mobile site contributes to its usability, the quality of a user’s experience, and beyond, its conversion rates.

Graphical User Interface & Responsiveness

Anyone who lived on the web longer than in the last 10 years will remember the clunky mobile interface of websites made only for desktop. Web designers didn’t anticipate the mobile revolution and were slow to catch up with it. iPhone was “something for Apple apps”. In the late part of the first decade of the new millennium, Flash was still at the top of what could be done with a website, and with the advent of broadband, the canons of web design favored screen-wide images, animated text over hero shots, and video served from regular hosting servers.

As a result of the design trends of the times, mobile users were saddled with websites that had to be resized with 2 fingers, and constantly re-centered with 1 finger to be read in the viewport of an iPhone 4. Loading times were horrendously long, unless you were browsing an old site hard-coded in HTML. But then again, the look and “mobile-readiness” of these sites were questionable, at best.

By 2010, it had become obvious that mobile users’ experience was crying for a long-overdue change. And then, just like that, the next revolution in design happened.

WordPress theme creators started to code themes to be resized on a mobile screen to keep them legible, and avoid the “2-finger spread” and the “1-finger drag”. The responsiveness discontinuity started with these 2 imperatives: keep the text legible by keeping the font size as was set for desktop, and organize the design elements always visible in the mobile viewport without forcing users to drag the design back to center.


Mobile First Sites and Graphical User Interface (GUI) Issues with Finger Motions


The verticalization of design was a complete innovation for the industry, and so was the advent of WYSIWYG page builders. The new capacity of WordPress to recalibrate the front-end to make it display in a legible format, coupled with its ease of use and its document management capability, imposed it as the obvious replacement for the best site builder software of the mid-2000s, Adobe’s Dreamweaver.

For web designers, the new slew of responsive WordPress themes was a killer sales tool. Local business websites started to look awesome again, and thanks to a vibrant developer community, WordPress quickly expanded its already predominant market share, dwarfing all the other content management systems combined. Drupal and Joomla didn’t even stand a chance.

The discontinuity stopped there, however, at “mobile responsiveness”.

Responsiveness: Useful… but incomplete

In fact, responsiveness as both a coding and design concept has not much evolved since its early days. Mobile-responsive themes adapt to more screen sizes and more devices than in 2012. New plugins have been developed to make building a WordPress mobile site even easier.

In 2015 Google came out with AMP, a development framework designed to speed up mobile sites. AMP HTML was a rudimentary language, with a limited number of expressions, difficult to implement with a sophisticated graphical user interface (GUI). It took years to mature, and caused a lot of grief in the web design community. Its birth and maturation take place in the stream of incremental changes aiming at  sculpting the web for mobile browsing.


Accelerated Mobile Pages AMP logo 400px


As imperfect as their approach to the new mobile web paradigm has been, Google has played a critical role in moving the developer community forward towards better mobile sites. By way of example, Google’s engineers have kept offering testing tools to the community, to validate their code. Google adopted to offer practical diagnostic solutions to bottlenecks and code optimization issues.

From “mobile responsiveness”, Google gradually transitioned to “mobile friendliness”. The Google Search Console is the testing framework in which this evolution is taking place.

User interface issues

Inevitably, the quest for better mobile usability led designers, developers, WordPress theme creators, and Google engineers to work on the GUI of mobile sites.


Using a smart phone in many different situations


Mobile browsing occurs in a variety of situations that have little in common with the environment in which desktop browsing usually happen. Think about it: where and how you do consult your smart phone?

    • In your car, quickly, at the red light (hopefully)
    • Out in the street, night and day (when a glaring sun reflects off your screen and blinds you) 
    • With and without your readers (if you are 40+)
    • At the office, between 2 tasks (surreptitiously, as The Man doesn’t like it) 
    • With your baby in your arms (who’s the focus of your attention?)
    • At the restaurant, in a fully lit or a dark intimate setting (ah, those pesky neon lights reflecting off your screen)
    • On motorcycle handlebars, glance by glance, to follow map directions (high vibrations and traffic dangers don’t make for comfy reading)
    • Under the rain, looking for directions (trying to protect your expensive iPhone from the shower)
    • Etc…

In all these situations, at least 3 external constraints impact your visual experience:

    • Lighting conditions
    • Speed of visual interaction
    • Situational stress

These constraints will translate into a set of specific design issues:

    • Is there enough contrast between the design elements to allow a quick read in all type of lighting?
    • Are the design elements big enough that they can be read at a glance, with and without readers?
    • Are the design elements well-differentiated and their individual function recognizable at a glance through color coding?
    • Are the design elements grouped by functional types that are easy to understand?

Mobile First Website - Graphic User Interface


Likewise, because the conditions under which you search and browse on a mobile device can be less-than-ideal, the ergonomics of a mobile website will affect the quality of your interaction with it.

The set of external hindrances at play comprises:

    • Small viewport size (until they invent the holographic phone)
    • Interactivity tools (fingers + voice + stylus, vs. mouse pointer)
    • Situational stress

From this set of hindrances arises a new set of graphic user interface issues:

    • Is there enough space between the elements of design to enable a clumsier interaction? (Your fingers are not as accurate as a mouse)
    • Is there too much space between the elements of design to enable quick decision-making without forcing you to move the site up and down? (Value-destructive interaction)
    • Are design elements big enough to enable a simple interaction? (Don’t you hate those extra-small buttons?)
    • Are design elements quick to respond to interaction? (Or do you need to tap twice to get a response from the site?)
    • Are design elements uselessly “floating” in the viewport? (Forcing you to re-center them left and right in a wasteful interaction)
    • Does the general page design create “reflows” forcing you to wait to interact with the site or even impeding your interaction? (E.g. bothersome ads that change the position of design elements)
    • Does the design give you a visual feedback of your interaction? (E.g. color change when tapping on an element, audible or haptic signals)

In the past couple of years, the Google Search Console has started to integrate programmatic tools designed to send you alerts (“mobile usability issues“) about perceived design flaws of your mobile site.


Google Search Console Alert on GUI issue


These alerts are not always accurate (far from it), but they call your attention to potential design hindrances that may impact user experience. Since Google never wastes a good opportunity to threaten you with de-ranking (“We recommend that you fix these issues when possible to enable the best experience and coverage in Google Search“), it’s a good rule of thumb to login to the Search Console and have a look at what their programmatic tool has to say.

This effort takes place in the framework of the “mobile-friendly” site, a design step-up from the “mobile responsive” site.

Mobile-friendly sites

“Mobile-friendly” is an expression coined by Big G a couple years ago to designate websites that comply with a set of guidelines:

    1. Measure the effectiveness of your website by how easily mobile customers can complete common tasks
    2. Select a mobile template, theme, or design that’s consistent for all devices

The task-oriented approach is the core of Google’s user interface design guidelines. The goal of your design is to help visitors accomplish their purpose in the shortest time possible, with the minimum number of steps, and with the greatest ease. All this in a format that is consistent across platforms. Measure and optimize.

In this approach we find commonalities with the philosophy of “lean manufacturing” pioneered by Toyota: measure and optimize your process to consume the least possible materials and energy (incl. human labor), eliminate re-work (or waste, “muda” in Japanese), bring in your materials and subsystems only as you need them, and detect/remedy quality issues as they happen (to avoid more “muda“).

Google’s approach to mobile-friendly sites is holistic in nature: align all elements of your system under a single goal of serving your customers well. Anything that does not concur to this objective is to be removed from the system.

One of the key concept behind the making of a mobile-friendly site is the hierarchization of information. As Google puts it:

“Making a mobile site requires prioritization. Start by working out what the most important and common tasks are for your customers on mobile.”

Information hierarchy

The fundamental differences in browsing experience between desktop sites and mobile sites make it necessary for web designers to organize the information presented to visitors in a different way.

The design concept dubbed “responsiveness” never included information hierarchy. Based on our experience, only web designers close to their local clients actually observed they could not show on a mobile site all that they could show on a desktop.

When local users shop for a plumber, an HVAC company or a restaurant, they typically have 5+ options to choose from within a 10 mile radius, and way more in a big city. They don’t like wasting time in navigating a complicated site.


Complex website navigation bad information hierarchy model


On the other side of the ledger, local businesses can’t afford wasting leads. They are keenly aware of the calls they get, and they watch their pennies: if their website doesn’t generate business, they are quick to fire their web team. This explains why local web designers are usually a step ahead of Google insofar as the best way to present important information first. There are “the quick”, and then there are “the dead”.

Some of the issues that need to be planned out when designing a mobile site:

    • What services do people most often look for when they need a plumber? An HVAC company? A mechanic? How to display these services on a mobile site so they can be accessed with 1 single click?
    • Do visitors expect to find specials and coupons on a site they visit? If so, where to present them?
    • What do visitors have to do to find your phone number and call? Do they have to go up and down the home page trying to locate your number? Or do you show it so obviously that no one could miss the call button?
    • It is important or not to display a map with your business on it? Should this map be interactive?

All these issues relate to the hierarchy of information presented on the site. What to present, where to present it, how to present it.


Information hierarchization involves making choices in the way core information is presented, or omitted, or moved to the bottom of the menu.

In other words, it is counter-productive to show on a mobile site everything you show on a desktop site, and in the same order. Your visitors will leave in droves before they even interact twice with your mobile site.

As designers, we have to be careful to not misinterpret Google’s concern with “skinny” mobile content. Google states: “Don’t get caught in the trap of only creating a mobile-formatted site that doesn’t provide the full functionality [of the desktop site].”  Yes, Google will penalize skinny content. But they won’t penalize a site because its mobile menu is organized differently from its desktop menu. However, if your desktop site has a blog, this blog’s better be present on your mobile site.

Mobile-First sites are mobile-optimized

Google does not instruct designers as to where and how the information should be presented on a mobile site. Each client has different needs, and this is the designer’s job to define these needs correctly, and hierarchize information according to a workable model. The model just has to work for end-customers AND for Google.

This is the reason why we believe Google’s concept of “mobile-friendly sites” falls a tad short of what really needs to be done on a mobile site to make it efficient for both users and search engines.

At Eden Ads, we have pushed the mobile-friendly concept a bit further, to create mobile-optimized sites:

    • Optimized information hierarchy
    • Optimized ergonomics & graphical user interface
    • Optimized speed
    • Optimized schema mark-up for local search
    • Optimized page tagging for search engines
    • Optimized conversions

The process through which we go to design an optimized mobile size requires studying your business with you, defining what your visitors expect, what your customers buy, what offers are necessary to clinch a deal, etc.

The philosophy of Mobile First is not an after-thought, but a carefully prepared planning process
that will make your mobile site a great weapon in your lead generation arsenal.

Don’t build a mobile replica of your desktop site. That won’t generate the leads and sales you need.

Free independent evaluation

Eden Ads is a full-service digital marketing agency in Tampa, FL. Our team offers qualified local businesses a unique opportunity to have their website and digital marketing/advertising campaigns fully evaluated under multiple aspects:

    • ROI of Google Ads campaigns
    • Finding where you waste money in your Google Ads campaigns
    • ROI of Facebook campaigns
    • Search engine position checks on your 2 or 3 main keywords
    • General SEO-readiness
    • Adequacy of mobile design
    • Google speed scoring of your mobile website

This free independent evaluation can reveal weaknesses that hurt your site and prevent it to get to the top of search results. It can also highlights design issues blocking it from converting more visitors into leads. Call our web consultants today at (813) 940-5699 to request a free independent evaluation, and discuss your most pressing needs.

If you’re want results, speak with one of our Marketing Consultants to find out how we can help you! Call us at (813) 940-5699 or make contact with our team via our secure online form.

Mobile First Websites: A New Quality Label

Mobile First Websites: A New Quality Label 


The lay of the (Google)land

There are 7 rules to creating a killer “mobile first” website:

  1. Design it for Mobile First
  2. Favor speed, speed, speed
  3. Offer a simpler GUI
  4. Display only what’s necessary
  5. Avoid bothersome interrupts
  6. Design it for outdoor use
  7. Make it accessible to the sight-impaired

In this new series of technical articles, we will explore each one of these rules and their accompanying challenges.

Let’s start with an observation that is quickly becoming a truism…

Responsiveness is an outdated concept

Most website templates on the market have been designed and coded “for desktop first”. Their mobile versions follow the rules of responsiveness: (a) verticalize content, (b) resize containers and images, and (c) display legible fonts on a variety of mobile devices.

That was excellent web design in 2012. Good in 2014. Passable in 2016. Kind of sucky in 2018. Unacceptable in 2021.

Mobile design has evolved with usage and usability.

Usage? In most B2C industries, smart phone browsing has become the #1 access method to a business site.

Usability? People use their phones in tricky situations that require good design ergonomics. Outdoors, where sunlight flattens contrast. In their car, where speed of display and convenient access to buttons are essential. At work, for private purposes, where quick in-and-out interaction is the rule.

Simply verticalizing a desktop site — the barebone answer of responsive websites to the constraints of smart phone display — violates most of the new norms of usage and usability.

Responsive design has become woefully inadequate, and creates significant hindrances to consumer interaction.

Design for mobile first

Because smart phone browsing is now the #1 way to access information anywhere, anytime, web designers starting from a blank slate must now “think mobile first”.


Designing a site starting with the mobile site


The notion of “designing for mobile before desktop” sounds counter-intuitive, but it is only counter-habitual. In fact, mobile-first design forces both designers and clients to think of what is most important to visitors, pare down less important information, and articulate a website structure along these lines.

Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing else to remove.
French pilot and writer Antoine de St Exupéry, author of The Little Prince


Designing for mobile first is an exercise in simplification.

It starts with a simple question: “What is most relevant to my visitors?“. This calls for information prioritization, and sometimes hard choices. What goes on the home screen of mobile first websites is almost never what the run-of-the-mill responsive version of a desktop site would show smart phone users.

Unique ergonomic challenges

Once these choices are made, the designer will works with ergonomics in mind. Mobile devices present some unique challenges compared with computer monitors:

    • A much smaller screen surface makes miniaturization a must
    • Bare-hand input (vs. digital pointers) makes precision interaction more difficult
    • The form factor can hinder interaction
    • Limited light output is easily overpowered by ambient light
    • A glossy screen surface further decreases legibility


Ergonomics impacts usability, and usability impacts both top and bottom lines.

ergonoimics impacts usability and top and bottom lines


Designers have to have a good understanding of usability rules to lay out a mobile graphic user interface that makes sense to the eyes, hands and fingers of most visitors. We will cover these in detail in a later instalment.

The need for speed

Speed means even more for mobile users than for desktop visitors. Smart phone users consult their phones in situations that require quick glances and fast downloads.

The fact mobile infrastructure is going 5G alleviates speed bottlenecks as 5G capability is rated to be up to 20x faster than 4G LTE. This said, low-speed cable is almost as fast as theoretical 5G speed, and with download speeds of 50-100 MB/s high-speed cable smokes 5G in households paying for the extra bandwidth.

The need for speed is nothing new. Back in 2018, the rollout of “Mobility First” — Google’s paradigm-changing indexing method — showed Big G was dead-serious in following up the early warnings it had given web designers as early as 2016.

Mobility First” revolutionized the way Google indexes websites by giving priority to speedy mobile sites in its result pages. From June 2018 on, mobile user experience became a primary factor in the way Google evaluates the performance of websites. (More about this and the next major algorithm update rolled out by Google in May 2021 in another instalment of this series.)

The need for speed is not just user-led: it’s also Google-pushed. The “lay of the Googleland” affects in a big way the design decisions webmasters must make when creating mobile first websites, and the building process they follow.


The need for speed means designing faster mobile first websites

“Designed For Mobile”: a new quality label

The paradigm shift in browsing habits started in 2011, when sales of mobile devices started to overtake sales of laptops and home PCs, has ratcheted up to a point today that makes desktop websites less crucial than in the past for local businesses.

Some statistics reflect this trend:

      • According to, mobile browsing accounted for 53% of all pageviews in the U.S. in 2017.
      • Even in the B2B sector, a recent study published by Smart Insights show that 50% of inquiries were made through smartphones in 2021. In 2020, during the Covid lockdowns, this number even reached 70%.
      • At the local level, Google had published a report a couple years ago showing that more than half of all search queries where done from a mobile device. A recent study by Hitwise puts this figure at nearly 58%.


Mobile design is the new black: “Designed for Mobile”, the new quality label.

Designers and clients must adapt to this trend. The process through which a new website is created and coded must change to meet the expectations of consumers, professional buyers, and… Google.

In the next instalments we’ll detail the approach and creative decisions our design team implements to achieve the new standard of the “Mobile First Websites”.


Mobile First Websites


Phil Chavanne
Snr SEO Consultant

Free independent evaluation

Eden Ads is a full-service digital marketing agency in Tampa, FL. Our team offers qualified local businesses a unique opportunity to have their website and digital marketing/advertising campaigns fully evaluated under multiple aspects:

      • ROI of Google Ads campaigns
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This free independent evaluation can reveal weaknesses that hurt your site and prevent it to get to the top of search results. It can also highlights design issues blocking it from converting more visitors into leads. Call our web consultants today at (813) 940-5699 to request a free independent evaluation, and discuss your most pressing needs.

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