The “mobile first” design mindset is a methodology that started out small in design communities, but has steadily grown and expanded. Today, it’s a widely respected method of approaching web and mobile web design. Websites designed with the “mobile first” metholodology often come out cleaner, simpler, more robust and easier to use than their traditional counterparts.
==> What Is the “Mobile First” Mindset?
It’s quite simple, actually; most designers who set out to build a website do so by building the desktop versions first. They then remove functionality and dumb down the website to create a smaller mobile version.
The “mobile first” method does just the opposite. You create a mobile website first, then you add functionality and content to create the desktop version.
==> Why Design for Mobile First?
The simple reason is that many desktop-first designs come out quite bad when they’re ported over to mobile. They don’t have the core functionality, the content is hard to read and everything about the site screams “afterthought.”
The reality is, there are 1.2 billion mobile web users today. Hundreds of millions of mobile devices are sold every year. Yet designers are still creating grossly sub-par mobile websites, simply because the underlying foundations of their sites weren’t built for mobile.
When you design for mobile first, you’re forced to make sure your core functions work on mobile. You’re forced to make sure it’s a pleasant experience to read your site on mobile. You’re forced to create a simple design.
Then when it comes time to add to your mobile device to “scale up” to the iPad or to a desktop, you’re faced with adding possibilities rather than removing functionality. Everything that worked on your mobile device is guaranteed to work on desktop when you go mobile first.
==> Responsive Web Design and Mobile First
When people hear about the mobile first concept, they often ask, “But what about responsive web design?”
The truth is, most designers who build with responsive web design also build from desktop first. That’s how the website is “supposed to look.” They then strip down that look to create the mobile version.
Again, with mobile first design, you design the mobile version first. Then and only then do you create the iPad version and the desktop version. It matters, even with responsive design.
==> Setting Your Expectations
Designing with mobile first is quite a different experience than designing with desktop first. You start off with quite a limited palette. Many designers don’t like it, because they feel so limited.
Yet once the foundation of your mobile site is built, the rest becomes very easy. Every step of the way, you’re given the opportunity to add functionality rather than subtract.
Using this method, you can ensure that your site will look great no matter what device your viewer is using. Go mobile first, rather than desktop first.