Put your Mobile First

Historically, most web projects have used the desktop side as a starting point, while leaving the mobile as a secondary goal. Even with the increased focus on responsive design, many of us still think in terms of desktop browsers first, then work our way down.

However, stats of mobile web usage pinpoints a dramatic change in web connectivity, calling for a change in the development strategy. One that sets the mobile user first.

  • There are over 1.2 billion mobile web users worldwide (Mobilethinking, 2012)
  • By the end of 2013, there will be more mobile devices on Earth than people. (Cisco, 2013)
  • By 2014, mobile internet is predicted to take over desktop internet usage (Microsoft Tag, 2012)

Mobile First strategies build to the constraints of mobile devices, and the needs of mobile users first. Coined by Luke Wroblewski, Mobile First is about developing better user experience, regardless of device. Loosing 80% of your screen space forces you to focus. You need to make sure that what stays on the screen is the most important set of features for your users.

Understand your user

So how do you know what’s on your users mind? The user centered development methodology provides a set of methods. Strive to keep an open mind. Who are your users today and who are your users tomorrow? Describe them by their actions, not by their demographics. Remember who your users are for the rest of the development process. When encountering dilemmas, ask yourself what would they prefer, or even better, let them show you.

 “Mobile users want to see our menu, hours, and delivery numbers. Desktop users definitely want this 5mb jpeg of someone smiling at a salad.”

The myth that mobile users want different things to desktop users should be put out of its misery right away. The time and context may be different, but the information they want to retrieve is the same. A Mobile First strategy well implemented will enhance both the mobile and desktop experience.

So why should you go Mobile First? According to our friend Luke, going Mobile First prepares you for the explosive growth and new opportunities emerging on mobile today. By utilizing new capabilities native to mobile devices, you will be able to innovate existing offerings. The constraints within the mobile devices forces you to focus, both on content and wrapping.

PS: Practical tips & tricks regarding responsive design