What is Mobile First Design?

With mobile phones becoming an essential part of our daily lives, it’s no surprise that most clients want a mobile friendly website. In 2022 it is estimated that 6.64 billion people own smart phones, that is almost 84% of the world’s population.

Until smart phones came along, websites were designed and developed for desktops alone. In 2011 only 6% of all web traffic came from mobile phone, so it made sense that desktop design took priority over mobile, if mobile was even considered at all.

Fast forward 10 years and everything’s changed, figures show that 56% of all website traffic now comes from mobiles phones and by 2025 it’s predicted to be over 70%.

Mobile First vs Responsive Websites

What’s the difference between a website that is responsive and a website that is mobile first? Well firstly, a website that is designed to be mobile first is always responsive however, a website that is designed to be responsive, isn’t necessarily mobile first.

In the past, websites were designed and created primarily for desktops and were later modified to accommodate customers using mobiles, tablets, and other devices. This process involved building an advanced website with complicated features, only to then work backwards to simplify it for smaller devices. This approach is less about design thought and more about making it work, meaning the design and thought process can be overlooked.

Compare this to mobile first which prioritises creating something simple for mobile first and then building upon that, this means that content is likely designed before its added, which seems the more logical approach. 

man browsing on mobile phone

Benefits of Mobile First

Now that mobile phones account for the majority of web traffic, developers are beginning to rethink the way they create websites and now prioritise mobile over desktop. This may not appear to be a large change but the benefits of focusing on mobile first design can be significant. When you design for desktop and work down you find yourself removing features to enable the website to work on tablets and mobiles, this doesn’t always deliver your customers the best user experience.

When you create for mobile first you remove the focus from some of the larger desktop functions and are then able to target more core components and provide better user experience. As the size of the screen increases, more advanced features and functions can then be added. The foundation of the website however, still retains the core UX Design and so the website is constructed around screen size and functionality. 

Mobile First Mentality

For creating websites that are mobile first, the priority and focus should be around user experience. The whole idea is to begin from the bottom and then build up, ensuring that the focal point is always directed towards user experience.

To do this you should make sure information and content is concise and to the point. Avoid heavy text or anything that’s going to distract them or require lots of scrolling. Site navigations should be clear and short, ensuring that all buttons and call or actions are visible, whilst avoiding anything that will negatively impact load time. 

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