Mobile-First Approach And It’s Benefits In Web Design And Development

The mobile phone has become a day to day necessity in our lives and this fact is indisputable. It is the first thing that we want to see in the morning while still in bed. It has totally transformed the way we communicate and do business. Be that sending a text message, browsing the internet while on our daily commute, checking emails or using social media we completely rely on the small screens. It is estimated that we spend almost 5 hours a day on our mobile screens and mainly on the use of applications. As per Statista, the number of smartphone users worldwide today surpasses 3 billion and is forecast to further grow by several hundred million in the next few years.

Businesses are taking advantage of this opportunity and are rapidly adopting the mobile-first approach. It is mandatory for businesses now to opt for a mobile-first approach as compared to the desktop-first approach because it is very rare these days for a user to use a desktop for online activity. Nearly 60% of people use a mobile phone for any search query. So if your business is still operating on a desktop-first strategy, it is high time to transform towards a mobile-first strategy.

Now is the time for your business to bust the myth that users are going to access your website from desktop first and evolve with the changing trends. Here is a guide towards the mobile-first approach and the perks that comes with it:

What is a Mobile-First Approach?

The Mobile-First approach as the name indicates refers to the designing or developing of an online experience for mobile before designing for the desktop web or any other device. In a mobile-first approach, the workflow is reversed as in the design is scaled up rather than scaled-down. The Mobile-first approach ensures that the website is properly optimized and good to go on mobiles as the number of users accessing the web through mobile devices continues to grow. It is a step towards a successful web strategy.

The term mobile-first was coined by Luke Wroblewski in 2009 and made famous by the CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt, in 2010. It is the right choice to start with because it is the only way to develop a responsive and adaptive design. The mobile element of the design comes up with a lot of flexibilities for the developers as it does for the users.

Mobile-First Design:

Mobile-first design is a design philosophy that aims to create better experiences for users by starting the design process from the smallest of screens. The product is designed first from the mobile end and is then expanded with other features for the desktop. Desktop first design on the contrary scale down and squeezes the design once it is all set for the desktop users. The following procedures give an insight into the mobile-first design:

  • Responsive Web Design (RWD):

Responsive web design is an approach in which a web design automatically accommodates the device and screen it is accessed through. The resolution, image size and scripting abilities automatically adapts to the user behaviour, environment and screen size. This is made possible through the use of a mix of flexible grids and layouts, images and intelligent use of CSS media queries. The users’ experience as seamless as it reduces users’ operations like panning, zooming and scrolling when browsing the web. It helps businesses to keep up with the endless new resolutions and devices.

  • Progressive Enhancement and Graceful degradation:

These two phenomenons came before the responsive web design.

Progressive enhancement refers to the practice of designing a product for a relatively lower browser (like that on a mobile phone) and only including the basic function and features. Graceful degradation, on the other hand, comprises building a product from the desktop end with fully loaded features and then scaling it down to the mobile end reducing the features to basic.

The progressive advancement strategy is widely used by UX/UI developers. It is because if the product is designed with a desktop version first, it is highly likely to get an advanced version with amazing features which most of the times are hard to scale down and adapt to the mobile screen. Meanwhile, the progressive enhancement of the features enables a product to adapt to a variety of screens.

Why is the Mobile-first approach Important:

The rapidly growing rate of mobile users is one of the main reason to opt for a mobile-first approach. Following are some of the reason which justifies why the mobile-first approach is important:

  • The smartphone sales have spiked and overtaken the sales of Pc.
  • People are spending more and more time on the internet from mobile ends. 51% of the global population access the internet only from their smartphones which will reach 72.5 % by 2025.
  • Google’s algorithms favour mobile-friendly sites.

Tips for a mobile-first design:

  • Focus on the content:

Content is the key to a successful mobile-first design. Content is context-based therefore the needs of a mobile user may differ from that of a desktop user. You must focus on all the necessary content that a user is looking for. Arrange the content in the visual hierarchy and avoid cluttering the site as it might affect the loading time, speed and user experience. The only way to fit the important elements is either using a hamburger menu top or combo navigation.

  • Make the site easy to navigate:

Hidden navigation buttons decrease content discoverability by 21%. So it is better to focus on efficient navigation on the site.

  • Keep the design simple:

Avoid burdening the users with extraneous elements like ads, pop-ups, and other content they don’t want to see. Limit the elements to only those that add value for the users.

  • Increase Visibility and Reach:

It is necessary that the site must be visually appealing and attractive to the customer as well as easy to use. This is the only way to enhance visibility on the search engine and retain users.

  • Keep the user in mind:

It should be kept in mind that the website is designed for the users and any inconvenience is synonymous with leaving it on the cutting floor.

Mobile-first design development lifecycle:

The mobile-first design development lifecycle consists of the following steps:

  • Planning and Vision Crafting
  • Technical Assessment
  • Designing and Prototyping
  • Developing
  • Testing
  • Deploying
  • Monitoring

Benefits of the mobile-first approach :

  • The flexibility of scaling for the developers:

Mobile-First design comes with the practice of progressive scaling up. Scaling up provides the developers with freedom in terms of adapting the design. As the design is well-functioning on the mobile with basic features, it provides room for innovation in the process of progressive enhancement as in cutting or adding the features.

  • Cost-Effective And Value Generating :

Although the upfront cost of developing a mobile-friendly interface is high, Mobile-first design is profitable in long run. The optimized experience helps engage with a variety of users hence generate more revenue.

  • Google Ranking:

Mobile-first indexing means that Google will look at the mobile version of a website in order to rank it before the desktop version. By using the mobile-first design strategy web designers can greatly increase the chances of a website ranking higher on Google.