Mobile-First (and Foremost)

Twelve years ago, my first cell phone had a two-color screen and all the essentials: an interchangeable face plate, the ability to text (with the need to delete messages one by one when your inbox was full), and of course Snake. If I were to accidentally access the internet, I’d slip into a panic and hit the back button repeatedly to avoid any substantial data charges to my parent’s cell phone bill.

Cell phones have come a long way since then. In fact, in just two short years, it is predicted that more than 90% of internet users will access content through their phones. A mobile-first strategy may not be a new concept (Google began to toss the idea around in 2010), but it is one that is becoming even more relevant as time progresses.

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For those not immersed in the design field, let me catch you up to speed. “Mobile-first” simply refers to the idea that when designing a responsive website the designer will focus first on the mobile version, and then move to designing and expanding on that for the desktop version. Previously, it was customary for the desktop version to be designed first, but this gives priority to the desktop/laptop users. With mobile devices seemingly taking the place of desktops and laptops, it is essential that businesses have a user-friendly mobile version of their websites.

If you think about it in terms of “building up” versus “breaking down,” it is much easier to build up content, starting with the essentials, rather than break it down, where pertinent information may get lost in the mobile version. Instead of facing the difficult decision of what to cut, we are able to decide what to add to make it even more powerful once it comes time to design for desktop.

Mobile-first web design is important and allows for the following:

  1. Websites have a further reach. With more individuals turning to phones and tablets for browsing the internet, the ease and convenience of a well-designed, mobile-friendly version enables businesses to cater to those users and make their browsing experience a more enjoyable one.
  2. Designers focus on the main content and the purpose that it serves. Hierarchy is essential for mobile-first design where the most important content can be found on top. In contrast, with a desktop version, content may be side by side for equal status. Pertinent information must be easy-to-find and this ensures that the site works seamlessly.
  3. Designers are inspired to utilize technologies to further user experience. From touch screens to GPS capabilities, there are some things not all desktop computers allow. Geolocation, for example, allows the user to pull up information relevant to their particular area.

The end result is this: when we focus on the key tasks and content that we want the user to see, we are able to get rid of the fluff that takes up extra space. No one wants to scroll excessively or pinch and zoom on small screens to find what they are looking for. With mobile-first web design, the user has a good experience and a good experience is good for business.

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