RST Software
Editorial Team
Ross Krawczyk
Reviewed by a tech expert

Why mobile first design principle is critical to the success of your marketplace app in 2023

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In the bustling world of digital commerce, marketplace apps have carved out a significant niche. These platforms, spanning vertical and horizontal, B2B, and P2P marketplaces, have transformed the way we engage in buying and selling activities. The driving force behind this transformation is the mobile first design principle.

What is mobile first design?

Mobile first is a design approach that aims to improve the user experience by embracing the constraints of smaller screens and focusing on what is indispensable for users. The concept first came into the limelight in 2010 when Eric Schmidt, then-CEO of Google, announced at a Mobile World Congress in Barcelona that the company would be focusing more on mobile users in their design practices.

Since then, mobile first design has grown in significance. It is more than just a web development buzzword, as it has become a strategic approach where the design process prioritizes mobile user experience on every step of the design and development. This strategy is deeply rooted in the fact that mobile usage has surged past desktop usage on a worldwide scale. A Statista report reveals that mobile devices (excluding tablets) accounted for 58.3% of global website traffic in the first quarter of 2023. Maintaining a steady lead over 50% since the onset of 2017, it increased by more than a half in the last six years.

Estimated mobile e-commerce sales worldwide 2021

On top of that, as of January 2022, mobile commerce accounted for nearly two-thirds (65.7%) of all global e-commerce retail sales, according to another Statista report.

While thinking about building a modern marketplace app, the pace and scale of growth itself constitute a reason good enough to develop a keen eye for the key principles of mobile first design:

  • Design for mobile screens first rather than desktop: This means creating wireframes and prototypes optimized for smaller screens like smartphones and tablets, and only then expanding the design to larger screens.
  • Develop with mobile constraints in mind: Mobile devices have less powerful hardware, use slower networks, smaller screens and touch interfaces. A mobile first design takes these constraints into account from the beginning.
  • Use responsive web design (RWD): Responsive web design allows pages to adapt and change layout and content to fit different screen sizes through CSS media queries and fluid grids. This allows one responsive site to work seamlessly on desktop, tablets and mobile.
  • Focus on core user tasks and minimize unnecessary elements: Mobile UIs should showcase the most important content and simplify navigation.
  • Optimize for touch interactions: The mobile first design approach prioritizes swiping, tapping and scrolling over mouse clicks.
  • Streamline performance: Minified code, compressed images, caching, and asynchronous loading are a must. Speed is critical for mobile users.

In one of their researches, Google measured the probability of users exiting your website that grew exponentially with each second it took to load a page.

In summary, the goal of mobile first is to build an optimal experience on mobile devices that also scales up nicely to desktop sizes. It ensures mobile users are not just an afterthought for a heavy-weight design.

Why is mobile first design critical to the success of any modern marketplace app?

The success of modern marketplace apps hinges on the effective implementation of mobile first design. The reason is the tremendous popularity of mobile shopping. At least 79% of smartphone users have made a purchase online using their smartphone in the last 6 months. Design that prioritizes mobile devices results in:

  • Enhanced user experience (UX): Mobile first design is instrumental in delivering an optimal user experience on the devices most frequently used by consumers. It emphasizes speed for great searching experience, ease of navigation for increased retention, and intuitive interfaces for seamless transactions – all vital elements in a marketplace app.
  • SEO edge: Google's mobile first indexing means it primarily uses the mobile version of content for indexing and ranking of all new websites. Google's algorithms will evaluate all aspects of your site's mobile pages, from the structure of your HTML to the quality of images, to ensure they are optimized for mobile users. Consequently, mobile first design can significantly boost your marketplace app's visibility in search results, leading to increased organic traffic and potential conversions.
  • Future-readiness: Mobile first design is not just about catering to smartphone users. It is about ensuring your marketplace app is adaptable across a range of devices. With the rise of smart devices like wearables and home assistants, a mobile first approach ensures your app can function effectively on these platforms too.

For instance, a user might start browsing your marketplace on their smartwatch during their commute, continue on their smartphone at lunch, and finalize their purchase on a tablet at home. A mobile first design ensures a seamless transition between devices, providing a consistent and engaging user experience. As more and more consumers keep switching between their mobile devices making shopping an omnichannel behavior, the marketplace app can stay ahead of the curve, indulging mobile users with the most desirable, ambient shopping experience.

  • Increased conversion rates: A well-implemented mobile first design can significantly boost conversion rates. According to Google Think, 59% of shoppers surveyed say that being able to shop on mobile is important when deciding which brand or retailer to buy from. By prioritizing mobile first design, for example, a user-friendly checkout process can facilitate seamless transactions and easy access to customer support, thereby improving user satisfaction and increasing sales.

Types of mobile first solutions

How to approach marketplace app development to leverage a variety of mobile first solutions and enhance overall performance and user experience? Each of these options has its unique features and benefits, and the choice depends on the specific needs and resources of your business.

Marketplace mobile apps

On average, a smartphone user engages with a diverse range of 9 to 10 apps daily, and around 30 different apps on a monthly basis. Hence, mobile apps for marketplaces are a popular choice for businesses looking to provide a seamless, high-performance user experience. The following technologies, each with its unique advantages and considerations, are the most beneficial when prioritizing mobile first design.

  • Native apps: Native apps are designed and developed specifically for a particular platform, such as iOS or Android. They offer the best performance and the ability to leverage device-specific features and hardware to their fullest extent. Developed in a programming language native to the device's operating system (like Swift or Objective-C for iOS and Java or Kotlin for Android), they also allow for offline use, which can be a significant advantage for users with intermittent internet access.
  • Hybrid apps: Hybrid apps are built using web technologies like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript but are wrapped in a native container. This approach is generally cheaper than developing a native app, but the performance can sometimes lag compared to native apps. However, they can still provide a robust and user-friendly experience for a marketplace app.
  • Cross-platform frameworks: Cross-platform frameworks like React Native allow developers to deploy to iOS and Android from a single codebase. This approach is a compromise between native and hybrid apps, offering a balance between cost-effectiveness and performance. For a marketplace app, this could mean reaching a wider audience without significantly increasing development costs.
Interested in React Native development services?

Responsive marketplace web design

The issue addressed by responsive web design, or RWD for short, is omnichannel availability of web content. RWD is a technique that enables websites to scale and adjust to varying screen sizes. This mobile first design approach ensures your marketplace app delivers a consistent user experience, regardless of the device it is accessed on.

The term is not new, as Ethan Marcotte coined it back in 2010, and defined it to mean fluid grid/flexible images/media queries. He also described the theory and practice of responsive web design in his brief book titled “Responsive Web Design”.

Marketplace accelerated mobile pages (AMPs)

After ensuring omnichannel availability, the next critical challenge in developing a mobile first marketplace app is to guarantee swift loading times and a seamless browsing experience. The Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) initiative, spearheaded by Google, is a game-changer in enhancing the performance of mobile webpages. AMPs provide customers with an incredibly fast shopping experience and allow for faster page-to-page transitions by serving a streamlined version of the webpage stripped down to the most basic elements needed for displaying the page content.

They bring along a number of critical benefits, including:

  • Speed optimization: AMP pages are engineered to load in the blink of an eye. They achieve this by trimming down excessive code and only permitting approved third-party scripts. The incorporation of caching and other optimizations further bolsters the speed of AMP.
  • Mobile-centric: AMP is all about delivering a streamlined mobile experience. It ditches slow-loading ads and trackers, ensuring pages load in under a second on most mobile devices.
  • HTML utilization: AMP employs a subset of HTML, complete with customized tags and permitted CSS. Google caches valid AMP pages, resulting in near-instantaneous loading.
  • Boost in Google Search: AMP-formatted pages enjoy a prominent display in Google's mobile search results. The faster the pages, the higher are the chances of Google algorithms putting your marketplace pages above your competitors.
  • Cross-platform functionality: AMP technology is not exclusive to Google. Other platforms, including Twitter, Telegram and LinkedIn, have embraced it, allowing your website to work seamlessly across various platforms.

All-in-all, AMPs can provide quick-loading product pages, reducing the chance of potential buyers abandoning their purchase due to slow load times by sizing all resources statically, and managing resource loading to prioritize the most important content.

However, while enhancing speed, this mobile first design choice does impose certain restrictions. It does not support specific JavaScript, limits customization, and third-party embeds. While this bolsters speed, it does curtail flexibility.

Marketplace progressive web apps (PWAs)

The problem of flexibility is, in turn, addressed by progressive web apps that are constructed using standard web technologies but function like native apps. PWAs offer a range of advantages for marketplace applications, making them an ideal mobile first design solution. Not only do they operate offline, but they also support push notifications allowing customers to receive timely reminders and updates. Furthermore, PWAs can be installed directly to the device's home screen with no need for app store downloads. The major pros of progressive web apps are as follows:

  • Responsive design: PWAs use responsive design to adapt to any screen size, providing omnichannel availability. This means that your marketplace app will deliver a consistent user experience, regardless of the device it is accessed on.
  • App-like experience: PWAs include features like push notifications, offline use, and the ability to install the app to a device's home screen with just a few taps. More so, users won’t ever have to download app updates, as it is, essentially, just a shortcut to the web page with the browser’s interface hidden. These features make PWAs feel like native apps, enhancing user engagement and retention.
  • Faster performance: PWAs use service workers, caching, and other optimizations to load fast. This can significantly improve the user experience, especially for users with slow internet connections.
  • Low friction engagement: PWAs are easy to build and deploy instantly, without the need for app store approval. This can help you engage users faster and reduce the barriers to entry for new users.
  • Lightweight: PWAs have a small bundle size since they are essentially websites. This results in much lower overhead than native apps, making them a cost-effective solution.

Whether you choose to develop a native app, a hybrid app, a cross-platform app, or a PWA for your marketplace will depend on your specific priorities and resources. Each approach offers unique advantages and can contribute to the success of your marketplace app.

How to build a mobile first marketplace?

Upon deciding to construct a marketplace with a mobile first approach, it naturally leads to the question of how to best navigate the development process. Each step is like a piece of a puzzle that, when put together, forms the complete picture of a thriving marketplace platform.

Understanding your audience

Knowing who your users are and what they want will guide your design decisions and help you create a marketplace that caters to their needs.

For instance, while building a P2P marketplace app for used books, understanding your audience would involve knowing their reading preferences, price sensitivity, and preferred methods of payment and delivery. This could involve conducting extensive surveys, user interviews, and market research to gather data and insights about your target audience. Competition analysis is also a valuable step to understanding why the market offers what it offers in terms of features and overall business approach.

Choosing the right mobile first solution

With a clear understanding of your audience, the next step is to choose the right mobile first solution. As we discussed earlier, there are several options to choose from, including mobile first responsive design, AMPs, and native apps, among others. The right solution for your marketplace app will depend on your specific needs and resources.

For example, if your audience primarily uses Android devices, a native Android app might be the best solution. This, however, hinders your ability to quickly tackle an enormous iOS market in the US or the UK. Your decision should be based on a thorough analysis of your audience's behavior, preferences, and needs, as well as your business goals and resources.

Here at RST Software, we are big enthusiast of cross-platform mobile development and thus would you be interested in our comparison of native vs. React Native development, check the linked article.

Focusing on user experience

A successful marketplace app must be user-friendly and easy to navigate. Prioritizing intuitive design and ensuring all key features and information are easily accessible is crucial.

B2B marketplacesshould have a simple and intuitive interface that allows businesses to quickly find the products or services they need, compare prices, and complete transactions with minimal clicks. This could involve creating user personas and journey maps, conducting usability testing, and continuously iterating on the design based on user feedback and data.

Optimizing for performance

Mobile users expect apps to load quickly. Techniques like lazy loading, image optimization, and leveraging AMPs can ensure your app loads quickly.

To give an example, a vertical marketplace for fashion could use lazy loading to only load images of clothing items as the user scrolls, ensuring the app loads quickly and uses less data. Performance optimization also involves monitoring and improving other metrics like Time to Interactive (TTI), First Input Delay (FID), and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS).


Before launching, it is crucial to test your marketplace app on a variety of devices and screen sizes to ensure it works properly and provides a consistent user experience.

This could involve conducting manual and automated testing, using device emulators and real devices, and testing under different network conditions.

RST Software as a trusted mobile first development partner

As we wrap up our discussion on mobile first design, it is important to highlight the role of mobile development services. RST Software can guide you through each step of the process, from understanding your audience to choosing the right mobile first solution, focusing on user experience, optimizing for performance, and testing. We bring a wealth of experience and expertise to the table, ensuring your marketplace app is built to the highest standards.

In conclusion, mobile-first design is not just a trend or a buzzword – it is a critical component of modern marketplace development. It enhances user experience, improves SEO, and prepares your app for future trends. In the fast-paced environment of, going mobile first is not just an option – it is a necessity.

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