Should You Design Mobile-First?

 In Branding and Marketing, Graphic Design

You may have heard the term ‘mobile-first’ thrown around while discussing either websites or online applications. These two words refer to a strategy one can take when building anything which can be accessed on a mobile device. Build for the mobile first, then for other devices after. This approach is becoming more and more popular because smartphones are dominating. Mobile devices now account for more than half of all internet browsing in the world. So designing for mobile should definitely be on your mind, but does it mean you should always design for the small screen before anything else?  

Sketching, designing, building a website takes many steps and many more decisions depending on its size. Years ago, building a website for mobile devices was an afterthought. The desktop version may have been a delight to navigate, but its mobile counterpart was a chore to wade through. Clunky layouts, illegible fonts and awkwardly-sized drop-down menus were the bane of browsing the web on mobile. The issue with a desktop-first design, is that it may be difficult to trim away at all the excess features. In-built video players, custom code, big and beautiful images which may have been seamless on a mammoth monitor had to be abandoned. This digital downsizing is called ‘graceful degradation’ and it can be cruel.

Adding to a small, sleek mobile-first designed webpage is much means less sacrifices. This approach is dubbed ‘progressive enhancement’ in web design-speak. By beginning with the smaller screen, the mobile experience will be sublime. A good designer can optimise a website with fewer words, larger fonts and touch-screen features which work better under thumbs. This foundation is then added to for desktops and other larger screens. The drawback is the desktop version may not come into fruition as smooth and simple.  

While more people are now surfing the web on their phones, this doesn’t mean you should ditch the desktop. One has to consider who they are targeting and the size of the website. The size refers to how many webpages will be on the site and how much content will be squished into the digital edge of each page. If your target market is business-to-business, then desktop-first may be the safe and secure choice. A budget-minded individual is usually looking for as much information as possible before purchasing anything. Also those searching for your website will probably be sitting at a desk looking at a full-size monitor too. 

The customer journey, and how people encounter your website is just as important as the big statistics floating around. Think about how, why, when and where people first find and spend time with your business before starting down the path of crafting your space on the internet.

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