With over a billion smartphones in use, it’s hard not to scoff and turn up my brow when I read the words “mobile is the future.” According to Socialnomics, half of all searches are conducted on mobile devices. Make no mistake: mobile is the present.
Of course mobile technology will play an incremental role as the years pass (within five years, the mobile internet is expected to overtake the PC as the most popular way of browsing the Web.)
Because of this, many brands have designed mobile-optimized sites that offer tablet and smartphone users a distinct browsing experience. But recently, we’ve noticed a trend that brands are actually letting their mobile site design dictate their desktop design.
If this seems strange, then examine why mobile is gaining traction as a browsing platform. Though smart phones and tablets make it easy to access the Web from nearly any location, I still find myself browsing the internet on my iPhone while at home, even when my Macbook is sitting right next to me. The reason being: mobile-optimized sites tend to have less distractions. They are easier to explore without feeling overwhelmed by a barrage of content.
Due to their design, mobile sites can actually do a better job of engaging visitors. In an excellent blog post, product designer Paul Schivens compared the Financial Times mobile and desktop sites. He showed that the FT mobile site generates three times as many page views as the desktop version.
Some forward-thinking brands see mobile sites’ popularity as a validation of mobile design elements. In an effort to engage non-mobile users, they’ve redesigned their desktop sites in the image of their mobile sites.
The most prominent example of this might be Amazon.com’s recent redesign. Instead of creating a separate experience for mobile and desktop users, Amazon made global changes. Their goal was to create a user experience that works equally well on desktop computers and tablets.
A more obvious example is Kayak.com‘s recent redesign. The new design includes large buttons, fewer ads and a typeface similar to the iOS mobile version of the site. Kayak CTO Paul English indicated that early testing indicated that the mobile-inspired redesign is driving more conversions. “[Customers] are more confident to complete the purchase because we haven’t worn them out,” English said. When it comes to design, sometimes less is truly more.
Expect to see more minimalist web designs popping up over the next year as brands realize that allowing their mobile site to dictate their web design might be more cost-effective than developing two separate user experiences.