Mobile First


Even since the advent of the iPhone and the revolution in mobile devices that followed, most web designs have continued to follow the pattern of desktop design first and then find a way to make that work nicely on smartphones – if at all.

Just over two years ago (in 2010), Luke Wroblewski coined the term Mobile First with a blog post predicting the rapid uptake in the use of mobile devices to surf the web. The predictions of mobile devices outselling PCs has already occurred and more recently the quarterly sales of the iPad (apple March 2012 ipad 3 launch) surpassed total PC sales of any other manufacturer.

Given that smartphone and tablet devices are not only outselling desktop PCs but are becoming the device of choice for quickly searching the web, why are we still designing for desktops first?

Obviously, we aren’t there yet. Mobile devices account for around 15% of web site enquiries and while this could be a result of sites not being mobile-optimised as to visitors not using their mobiles; until the majority of web sites make the move, users won’t either. Early optimisers however will retain the mobile visitors they receive and gain an advantage over their competitors. Google has separate mobile and desktop search crawlers so it may only be a matter of time before search rankings takes device interoperability into consideration.

From a designer perspective, the biggest issue is of how to present a design concept. Website concepts have generally been treated as print design with the web page and the paper page being analogous. This of course doesn’t work for the smaller form factor of a mobile where the display is more sticky note sized that page. As mobiles and tablets increase their share of site traffic designing for the multitude of device viewing sizes will become a must rather than an optional nicety.

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