Web Design

The Lowdown On Mobile First and Why It’s an Increasingly Important Strategy in Web Design

Anna Veitch
16th August 2021
3 minute read

“Mobile first” is a design concept that can revolutionise the way that your customers experience your website across a variety of devices in the 21st century, creating a consistent user experience which is particularly important if your website represents your business.

But what exactly is “mobile-first” and why is it so important?

Mobile-first design is a strategy that posits that designers ought to prototype the smallest screen first for a website or app, before working up to larger screens. Through working in this manner, you’re able to ensure that the correct user experience can be delivered to the correct device. In short, mobile-first means better performance, increased scalability and decreased bounce rate.

For a great deal of time, mobile-friendly sites were a mere afterthought for designers, less of a necessity and more of a novel addition. However, recent figures estimate that the number of global smartphone users stands at an estimated 6.4 billion, which is an alarming 73% increase from the 2016 stats. But what does this mean exactly? Well, it certainly has an impact on which devices the visitors to your site are likely to be using. Further stats make this likelihood a bona fide reality, revealing that in 2020, 68.1% of all website traffic came from mobile devices.

The covid19 pandemic also has a role to play in regards to the recent pressure on businesses to adapt to modern means of browsing and buying, activities which are now done largely online for a vast number of people. With the general public regularly unable to or discouraged from venturing beyond their four walls over the last eighteen months, the prevalence of our devices in keeping us connected became even greater. In times such as these, sites that are not mobile-friendly are, unfortunately, proving somewhat irrelevant.

What’s more, it’s not just small-fry browsing that the vast majority of mobile users are carrying out. Plenty of large-scale purchases and buying decisions are being made on mobile phones, too. Heck, I even signed the lease for my student house on my smartphone. So, whether you’re a local dentistry practice, an estate agents or a slow-fashion brand, it’s essential you prioritise mobile first design.

“Mobile first” and “mobile-friendly”: Is there a difference?

In short, yes. There is absolutely a difference between mobile-friendly and mobile first design strategies.

Mobile friendly is a term that denotes sites that are built for larger, desktop-sized screens, and then sized down for mobile. Sites that are mobile-friendly are built first and foremost for desktop users, but with some adjustments here and there, are able to work well for mobiles, too. This approach makes sites accessible for mobile users, but their experience will be one that was initially conceived for desktop users.

Mobile-first, however, means designing experiences with mobile in mind, before scaling up to desktop. That really is the top and bottom of it.

“If you’re coming at this post as a designer, we want to offer a quick run-through of our top tips for implementing genuine mobile-first design…”

Tips for effective mobile-first design

However, mobile-first, as far as design strategies go, may sound simple by definition, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be tricky in practice…

#1 Content first

It’s essential when building a mobile-first site that you have all of your content figured out prior to beginning the design process. This may be against your usual instincts (I can practically hear your sighs as I write this!) but it’s of paramount importance here. Content must drive design when it comes to mobile-first sites.

#2 Get clients on board

Whilst clients may be keen to jump straight into the design process, even if their content is not ready, it’s essential that you steer them towards their content first, before you begin designing. Ensure they’re fully up to scratch with the reality that the market has changed and adapted, and that the overwhelming majority of users want mobile-first, rather than simply mobile-friendly, in this day and age.

#3 Prioritise functionality

When it comes to mobile-first design, we’re looking for functionality before all else. This can mean having to build simpler, less complex designs. I know this can be frustrating, but it really does pay off. Rather than seeing this as an obstruction to your traditional process, see it as an opportunity to capture something beautiful in the simplicity of the site you’re designing.

That’s a wrap!

So, that’s the lowdown on mobile-first design. We hope, for your own sake, that you’re convinced!

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