Revisiting the 'Mobile First' mentality

Up until recently, designers and clients generally agreed on the need to create websites that address the specific, sole requirements of the desktop computer. With approximately 2 billion personal computers in use today, the global online community has the right to visit a beautifully presented, fully functioning website from their home or work PC.

Up until recently, designers and clients generally agreed on the need to create websites that address the specific, sole requirements of the desktop computer. With approximately 2 billion personal computers in use today, the global online community has the right to visit a beautifully presented, fully functioning website from their home or work PC. The concept of introducing mobile considerations was always seen as a secondary concern, normally based on budget and time constraints. If mobile was brought into the design and UX mix in the past, it was usually as an adaptation of the “full size” design.

However, over the past 2-3 years, this outlook has been flipped on its head, with mobile considerations pushing their way to the forefront of the planning process. Owing to changes like Mobilegeddon, where websites were given priority for having mobile-friendly design, some clients are now requesting that design agencies begin with a mobile-based strategy, and work their way through to desktop design from there. Because of this, mobile web design is no longer a niche requirement.

In fact, 2015 saw the tipping point as Google announced that mobile searches had surpassed that of desktop searches, a huge insight for development agencies. Mobile screens, for many, are now individual’s primary screen – the one that they turn to when searching for information, products and services.

Maintaining a 'mobile-first' strategy when creating a website is key, and understanding that responsive websites are based more on the adaptation of screens rather than devices will help you create websites that are led with functionality and creativity in mind. Here are some ways in which you can maintain keep mobile-focused in the development stages of your website.

  • Consider responsive design: this allows developers to create a website that can be easily viewed on a selection of screens. The flexibility involved in responsive design is positive as it addresses layouts, images and general functionality.
  • Always provide users with the desktop option: This might seem strange but for some, using the full website option may make them more comfortable. As comprehensive as your mobile website is, always give consumers the option to switch between the two if need be.
  • Keep testing the experience: Once you have created your website based on responsive design, test it with numerous people and on numerous devices. It is important to understand that people use their mobile phones in different ways, so try and see the experience from as many different points of view as possible.
  • Before you create, understand: There are an array of common misconceptions around mobile site usage. It is important to base design decisions on the fact that mobile phones are being used in the same way that desktops are. When conceptualising, you need to understand exactly how your target audience is using their phones and for what.

Although most experts encourage the use of the “mobile-first” mentality, some are saying that other screens and devices are being forgotten. As much as mobile screens are a dominant entity, they are not the only screens that people use on a day to day basis. Yes, when people commute, they are using their smaller, mobile phone screen, but during the day when they are at work, they are using their larger screens to actually complete transactions. Most of us are at work up to 10 hours per day, where a commute is possibly 1 – 2 hours. When looking at the home environment, many have different ways of being online. Where some sit down in front of their computer in the evenings and over weekends, others relax on the couch or in bed with their phones by their side. In many cases, various devices and screens are used.

Therefore, there must be a happy medium between creating websites that are mobile friendly and easy to use, whilst not solely relying on a mobile website to carry your brand online. The exciting notion when it comes to the lifecycle of features of mobile phones, is that they are changing at a rapid and steady pace. It is therefore possible that an outlook or technique that was applicable a year ago, may not be suited to your mobile website today.

It is imperative that you embrace the changing face of the mobile design and understand that while mobile is leading many UX considerations, it is only a cog in the ever-evolving machinery of website builds.