What does it means “Mobile First”

Mobile First

¿What Does the Concept of “Mobile First” Mean?

Today, it’s estimated that around two billion people globally access the internet through their smartphones, accounting for 51% of total smart mobile device users. This trend has led to a growing preference for web design with a mobile-first approach.

“Mobile first” is a design philosophy that prioritizes creating a website’s mobile version first and adapting it for desktop later. This approach is a departure from the traditional method of designing for desktop first and then adjusting for mobile devices. Given the increasing reliance on mobile devices in recent years, designing with a mobile-first mindset has become more crucial.

With a mobile-first approach, developers have the flexibility to expand rather than shrink. This is because a desktop version of a website offers more space, allowing the primary design elements to be well-adapted for an enhanced user experience.

However, the scenario changes when a user accesses the site on a mobile device. They may not find the same design, and the content might not adjust as easily to a smaller space, leading to disorganized images and other elements.

This often results in the mobile experience falling short compared to the desktop version, which some users might perceive as having a makeshift design.

By adopting a mobile-first strategy, designers can start by creating a page optimized for mobile devices, placing the most relevant aspects more effectively. Elements like headers and other site sections can be prioritized, making the transition to a desktop version much smoother.

Why is Mobile First Design Important

The primary goal of mobile-first design is to provide a superior user experience (UX) for mobile device users, such as smartphones or tablets. It represents the most effective way to design a website.

Firstly, expanding designs (from mobile to desktop) offers more freedom in adapting your content. With a well-functioning mobile product, you’ve already prioritized the necessary functions and capabilities of your website. Therefore, decisions to adapt the mobile version to desktop focus on what to add and how, rather than figuring out what to remove for mobile compatibility.

The key to starting with mobile design is to focus on content and prioritize web page organization, modifying elements to concentrate on essentials. This approach ensures the content is genuinely useful for first-time visitors and accessible for returning users.

Another reason to adopt mobile-first designs is their impact on website traffic. Following Google’s algorithm, mobile-first designs can favor your site in search rankings, leading to better placement in search result pages.

While Google values accessibility in both desktop and mobile versions, they place significant importance on websites providing a good mobile user experience. This can enhance your site’s visibility and potentially increase your conversion rate.

¿What is Mobile-First Design?

To fully grasp the concept of mobile-first design, it’s essential to first understand the two phrases that follow.

1. Responsive Web Design (RWD)

Responsive web design is a method of web design that allows websites to automatically adjust to the screens of different devices, displaying content in a way that is comfortable for users. This significantly reduces user operations, such as scrolling, zooming, and horizontal scrolling when browsing the web.

Mobile-first design is a web design philosophy that prioritizes the user experience on mobile devices as the number one priority when creating a website. This means that the design and functionality of the website are built first for mobile devices, and then adapted for larger screens, rather than the other way around. In a world where mobile device usage for web browsing is constantly increasing, mobile-first design has become increasingly important to ensure a satisfying user experience across all devices.

2. “Progressive Advancement” & “Graceful Degradation”

These two concepts were proposed before responsive web design. To make the web or app interface display reasonably on different devices, designers provide customized versions of the product for different purposes.

  • “Progressive advancement” means that when we design a product, we first build a version for the relatively more basic browser (like that of a mobile phone). This version includes the most basic functions and features. After that, we move to the advanced version for a tablet or PC, which is created by adding interactions, more complex effects, etc., to the basic version for a better user experience.
  • “Graceful degradation,” on the other hand, starts the product design from an advanced end like the desktop and builds a version with well-defined features at the beginning. Then, designers make the product compatible with mobile devices by removing some features or contents.

Progressive advancement has won the game for now, as we see it at Dazzet. If UI/UX designers start the design of a product with its desktop version, they will inevitably want to take advantage of most of the benefits of the screen extremes.

For example, the hover effect compatible with a cursor mouse; HD images and complex graphics that can only be normally displayed when there is recent bandwidth. In this way, designers will make efforts to complete a desktop version and only find that it can hardly be adopted on a mobile end unless they give up many ideas. If so, the mobile end version will be more like an afterthought, an incomplete product that has been diluted.

But if we take the mobile end product design as the starting point, under constraints like bandwidth, screen size, etc., designers naturally capture the key points of a product, aiming for a sleek and tidy product with priority features. When the platform expands to a tablet or PC, designers can leverage the unique features of these extended ends to strengthen the product step by step. This could be the main reason why the strategy of progressive advancement is widely used.

What is the Mobile-First Design Process?

If you’re wondering what needs to be done to have a mobile-friendly version, here are some steps you can consider before starting.

The mobile-first approach can be done in multiple ways. For example, at Dazzet, we design web pages with mobile devices in mind first and apply the following process:

  1. Planning and Vision Development: We start with research on the functionality, design, and purpose of the website or application, according to the needs of the company. This helps in structuring a timeline, prototypes, etc. This phase involves combining, organizing, and structuring a plan to determine the objectives, scope, and required capabilities of the main functions and how they should be integrated into the design. It’s also where you might consider what to include in the desktop version.
  2. Technical Evaluation: We analyze the systems on which you want to base your page or application, such as purchasing a domain (if the website is built for the first time), choosing hosting, determining the platform for creating the page, purchasing plugins, etc.
  3. Design and Prototyping: This is where all the ideas from previous steps start taking shape! We begin designing the site with preliminary and tangible visualizations of how you want it to look, feel, and function, prioritizing what is best for users with a business vision. User experience is paramount at this stage, ensuring the design is responsive and mobile-friendly: intuitive and easy flows for mobile visitors are considered. Other elements like copywriting, the placement of call-to-action buttons, and graphic content are also taken into account.
  4. Development: Here, the coding process begins based on the planning!
  5. Testing: This is an essential and iterative step. It’s not done just once but at specific times to test the functionality and/or user experience of your website. Options include manual testing, automated tests, launching a beta version, or even hosting a user group to receive feedback about the page and its mobile version on different devices.
  6. Implementation: Once everything is as desired, the page is launched!
  7. Monitoring: After the page goes live and receives visits, it’s necessary to monitor and analyze it. This provides essential data on load time, performance, accessibility, availability, and functionality. Remember, testing is always necessary, so you can set a monitoring schedule to evaluate based on specific objectives. This is vital in the process of making optimizations to the website.

This comprehensive approach ensures that the mobile-first design not only meets the immediate needs of mobile users but also scales effectively for larger devices, maintaining a seamless user experience across all platforms.

Juan Esteban Yepes

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