What is ‘mobile first’?

Mobile First is the practise of considering the mobile web experience before anything else (tablet, desktop etc.).

Why does it make sense to work in this way? Most of my traffic still comes from desktop computers!

If you consider that the mobile view is essentially more simple than the desktop view then this all this makes sense. When creating a mobile website you do not need as much mark up as you would on the desktop. The layout is much more straight forward on mobile, often flowing in a single column. Once your mobile view is achieved you can start to add the mark up that creates more sophisticated layouts for larger screens. You can can add media queries that start to create columns, you can add jquery that takes advantage of the larger screen and cpu. In basic terms it’s easier to add stuff than take it away! This is known as Progressive Enhancement.

The alternative approach is to create a desktop experience and then start to take bits away to strip it down for mobile. Trying to ‘degrade gracefully’ in this way is much more tricky to perform and can be quite messy and cause headaches.

Rapid prototyping

Working mobile first is the only way to go if most of your traffic comes from mobile and you are wanting to build a prototype quickly and test it with real world users. We recently did this for a client and our mobile prototype was built extremely quickly. We wrote testing scripts and uploaded it to usertesting.com and the users showed us where we needed to improve. This was all achieved very quickly by going mobile first. The results were logged before expanding the prototype to cover tablets and desktop and then retested and refined to create an attractive, functional UI that’s been verified as being totally usable by the target market.

Mobile continues to grow

We now have some clients that generate over 70% of their traffic through mobile devices, and it’s still growing. The mobile UI is becoming more important than ever and therefore it makes sense to look at this first and get this right. Lessons learnt through creating the mobile UI can then naturally pass through to the desktop experience.
How important is the mobile experience for my users?

It would be easy for us to shock you into spending lots of money on a super slick mobile experience if you’ve not already done so. Everyone is talking about mobile and you may already feel like you’ve been left behind if you’ve not tackled this yet. The truth is that at some point you will need to address this and make your mobile experience as good as it can be. This will be more important for some than others. You need to make sure you gather accurate analytics and see for yourself how important this is to your business right now. Simple, easy to understand statistics are available that will tell you how many users are trying to view your website on a mobile device. If you’ve not invested in the mobile experience then these users will be struggling to digest your website on mobile and will probably shut their browser or simply go elsewhere.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us about mobile web design or improving your responsive website.