A recent contributed piece, which I won’t link to, on a prominent marketing blog by an industry “thought leader,” who I won’t name, encouraged marketers and brands to basically stop designing their websites for the desktop browser experience. Consumer behavior, he argues, has shifted such that we need to move beyond a “mobile first” mindset to a “mobile only” approach.
He makes some decent points. Consumers do indeed want more information to live and be available natively within the mobile experience. Mobile is playing a larger and larger role at all points in the buyer’s journey. Mobile sites are important as Google rolls out more changes that give preference on SERPs to sites that are mobile-friendly.
Where his argument falls down is where he states there’s this groundswell of frustration among people because they’re forced to switch between desktop web and mobile experiences, with the former being poorly thought out and difficult to navigate and the latter being the ideal on all fronts.
I’m honestly not sure how he gets anything done during the day. Then again, knowing who it is that wrote the piece, my thought is actually “He thinks this because he’s not actually responsible for doing anything all day.”
A 2017 study from Pars.ly showed how desktop web traffic plummets both after business hours and on the weekends. Basically, anytime people have the choice to switch back to their preferred mobile experience, they well. That’s great and publishers, retailers and other companies should absolutely take that into account when designing their conversion and readership paths.
Look at it from the other direction, though. The desktop web still dominates the vast majority of web browsing activity, especially during business hours. Desktop computers are still the technology more commonly provided to staff by employers, who assume that staff will bring their own preferred mobile devices with them.
Not only that but a recent study reported by NiemanLab states that people pay better attention to stories on the web than they do on mobile devices, which offer more distractions. There’s a case to be made, based on that, for continuing to prioritize desktop reading because it better serves the public good and is more useful to the audience.
It’s unquestioned that mobile is become more and more essential. That work-based productivity still happens on desktop machines, though, means that switching over to web design that puts mobile functionality first doesn’t make a lot of sense.
The more reasonable suggestion would be to say that publishers, retailers and other need to streamline and update their overall web experience, which has benefits for visitors on all platforms. That’s a goal worth getting behind because it has universal and long-lived value, unlike blind and reactionary knee-jerk adjustments to conform to your reading of a trend that only takes half the picture into account.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.