What do we actually mean by ‘mobile first’?

From the very beginning, web development and design focused on targeting sites for stationary desktops. This changed with the increased adoption of mobile. As sales of smartphones shot up, mobile optimisation of websites soon became vital. The term “mobile first” is increasingly used in the marketing sector. In the following blog, we explain what mobile first really means, the advantages of adopting this mindset and how the implementation of this principle works.

What do we mean by mobile first?

Mobile first can be defined as a new way of thinking about web design and user experience.  It’s about optimising the presentation of websites for mobile view and then adapting this design to fit other screen sizes. With mobile first, you’re working from the smallest to the largest size option.


Advantages of Mobile First

The reader has much less space to view content on mobile compared to when reading web pages on desktop. As such, mobile designers concentrate on the essentials. They make the layout much more clear and user-friendly as a result. The alleged weakness of lack of space is, in fact, one of mobile first’s greatest strengths.

“Mobile first removes the waffle and gets straight to the value.”

With that being said, the biggest advantage of mobile first is quite obvious: you can reach many more potential customers. The Guardian reported that mobile web browsing has been steadily growing since 2009. Desktop’s share of web traffic has steadily decreased as a result. In October 2016, the two crossed over. Global mobile and tablet browsing accounting for 51.3% versus the desktop’s 48.7%. This stat is only going to rise.

Implementation of Mobile First

“Welcome to mobile where the only thing you can count on is change […] So what’s a web designer to do — get swept up in a sea of constant instability? Quite the opposite. Things continue to be so Wild West out there, you need to be a cowboy. Take risks, try new things, and accept that not all the boundary lines between devices, browsers, and the web have been drawn yet. – Luke Wroblewski, NCSA”

The exact creation and implementation of mobile first will be a task for web designers – but it’s also important for marketing to know how mobile first works.

When using the mobile first strategy, special grids of the web pages are created in smartphone format and then scaled accordingly for larger screen formats. Depending on the format, the rulers automatically adapt to the display size and present content optimally at all times. It’s worth bearing in mind that this adjustment is rarely smooth. This why the use of the latest technologies should be one of the decisive factors when introducing mobile first. For now, this is the only way to offer the user a holistic optimised user experience.