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 Mobile First Approach: What is it and why you should adopt it?

3 October 2018

For years the “Desktop First” approach dominated web design. Meaning, websites were designed and developed first for big screens and then adapted to smaller screens. But this paradigm has shifted, and now everybody talks about Mobile First. What does Mobile First mean and is it the best approach for your business?

What is Mobile First Approach?

The term “Mobile First” was originally coined by Luke Wroblewski in a book of the same name, which was published in 2011. As its name implies, the Mobile First Approach prioritizes mobile devices over PCs and guides web designers and developers to design first for mobile devices and then think their way up to PCs.

In the seven years since the publication of the book “Mobile First”, mobile usage increased significantly. To put things in perspective, here are some mobile usage stats:

  • In 2012, when the Mobile First Approach was still considered innovative, the mobile part of internet users was only 40%, in 2018 mobile devices drive 80% of the global internet usage.
  • About 50% of Google searches are performed on mobile devices.
  • 50% of the time people on digital media is on mobile apps.

So, if your potential clients are most likely to first encounter your digital presence via mobile devices, it only makes sense to consider the mobile users’ experience first, instead of the other way around.

Google’s Mobile First Index

The Mobile-First Approach was also adopted by Google, as it recently shifted to a Mobile-First Index, which basically means that the search engine’s crawlers scan the mobile web and see the mobile version as the main version of the website, and not the other way around as before.

Responsive Design or Mobile First?

A common misconception says that a responsive website (which matches its display according to the users’ screen size) solves the problem of mobile compatibility. Although responsive design offers a convenient and inexpensive solution for web developers who wish to adapt their sites to mobile devices, it is basically a “desktop-first” approach, which eliminates objects, elements, and content from the desktop version to make it “mobile-friendly”. The Mobile First approach requires the opposite tactic – making the website’s design, brand identity, and content work on the smallest screen, and then on bigger screens.

After that, you can consider building a bobile app to improve users’ engagement and sales.

Eventually, the user wouldn’t tell the difference between a Mobile First design and a responsive design, and if the website offers a fast and friendly experience on their mobile devices, they are more likely to stay and convert.

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