Everything You Need to Know About Mobile First Design

Smartphones have revolutionized the way we experience our daily lives. Gone are the days of dealing a desktop computer, smartphones have made the life of a common man far more convenient. According to recent statistics, more than 52% of global internet traffic now comes from mobile devices and the percentage is expected to grow further in coming years. It is also being predicted that by the year 2020, 6.1 billion people will be using smartphones.

smartphone user

When we think about mobile friendly design, the first thing that comes to mind is squeezing everything to fit a smaller sized screen. However, mobile friendly design is so much more than just contraction of design elements and content. It requires meticulous planning and execution to provide mobile users a seamless experience.

Few years back, making your website mobile friendly was a nice additional feature to have. In today’s mobile dependent world, it has become a necessity; a necessity of such high priority that Google has made mobile-friendliness a contributing factor in terms of ranking websites on its search engine.

Before you go on to revamp your website for mobile friendliness, here are a few basics that you should be aware of.

  • Understanding the concept of mobile first Design
  • Importance of mobile first approach in product design
  • Mobile first always means content first
  • Upgrading user experience (UX)

Understanding the Concept of Mobile First Design

The approach of mobile first is pretty self-explanatory. It simple means when you are in the process of designing your website, it should be done in such a way that it fits the smallest of screens without breaking the user experience and from there, you can work your way up to design for larger screens.

mobile design

To better comprehend this idea, it is crucial to understand Responsive Web Design (RWD) where development of website is done in a way that the design adjusts itself to fit all types of screens in terms of size and resolution, thus allowing every user to experience the content in the best possible way. A mobile friendly design also eliminates the inconvenience for users which may involve zooming, scrolling or panning to view all the content.

The mobile first design can be further explained through the ideas of Progressive Advancement and Graceful Degradation.

Progressive Advancement

This approach outlines that the design of an application or a website should be developed to suit the smallest of device i.e. smartphones. The content and the features that are supposed to be displayed on mobile devices will be basic with no additional frills. This ensures that you build a better user experience as only the necessary elements are being shown on the screen. Once the design for the smallest device is developed, you can use it as the basic stepping stone to include additional content and features so the consumers using bigger screens of laptops, tablets, and PCs can get more utility out of your website or app.

Graceful Degradation

This concept is in complete contrast with the progressive advancement approach. Graceful degradation is when the design of a website or an application is developed for the biggest screen first, i.e. PCs. It means you start designing by adding all the content, elements and functions that can be displayed on a desktop PC’s screen. Then to cater to smaller screen devices such as tablets and smartphones, supplementary features are stripped down to make the design compatible for every device. This approach has some drawbacks, the major one being that all core and additional features are merged in the very beginning making it difficult to separate and distinguish between what’s necessary and what’s not.

Importance of Mobile First Approach in Product Design

As mentioned before in the introduction, when it comes to internet usage, the number of mobile devices has surpassed desktops, which means that the global internet traffic is coming primarily from mobile devices as opposed to traditional computers. Aside from the fact that mobile devices rule the global internet traffic, they are also outselling traditional computing devices such as PCs and laptops since 2012 which means in coming years, mobile internet traffic will only grow further.

Given these facts, usually businesses prefer progressive advancement over graceful degradation as progressive advancement makes touch based input its major focus while graceful degradation is heavily reliant on cursor or click oriented. It goes without saying that user experience with the website is far more interactive and convenient when the design focuses on being friendly to small screens and touch oriented input.

Mobile First Always Means Content First

moble first

Mobile first design means we put the user first and what does the user come to see? Content. That’s why mobile first actually means content first and it is imperative to curate the critical content that must be displayed given the screen size limitation.

Content developed for such a device, is usually rudimentary in nature, but is developed to deliver the best user experience on smaller screens. There are several steps that you need to ensure when emphasizing on content, few are listed below:

  • Use of interactive images or video that clarifies what to do or what do different design elements represent
  • Option to dive deeper into the website or get hold of more information
  • Action buttons or slots that enables user to get into touch with you
  • Display contact and help seeking information in such a way that it’s easy for the user to locate it on the screen

Upgrading User Experience (UX)

upgrading mobile experience

Mobile first philosophy revolves around optimizing user experience (UX) while respecting the screen size limitation. You simply cannot display the entire website on a mobile screen, that’s why many elements and some content need to be cut down so the user doesn’t have to zoom, scroll sideways, or browse a ton of pages. If you fail to provide a seamless experience to your users the first time, they are unlikely to come back.

Google has evaluated that more than 61% of users are not likely revisit a website, if they had any kind of problem while interacting with that particular website. This means, if your website isn’t mobile friendly today you will lose 6 out of every 10 visitors coming to your website. Henceforth, you need to ensure that the website design that you have developed is as mobile friendly as it can get.


If people are under the impression that elevating user experience or upgradation of design are simple myths or a fad that will lose the steam quickly, then all you need to do is drop the mobile first approach and see for yourself what kind of disaster it brings. In today’s digital world, the business models of organizations are consumer focused and they are always trying to make their experience even better. Therefore it is not only in the interest of your consumers to develop a mobile friendly website but also serves your business needs.