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Why Mobile First is Key to Mobile Success

Until recently, the software development world emphasized designing apps and websites for desktop or browser-based delivery. Mobile development was usually treated as an afterthought. Today, many organizations are designing for mobile device users first and adjusting the design for other delivery platforms after the fact. This is the core of the mobile first paradigm.

Why Choose a Mobile First Approach?

According to the Pew Research Center Internet Project Survey from January 2014, 58% of American cell phone users now own a smart device. More than 60% use their mobile device for internet activity, and almost 40% perform nearly all their web browsing on a smartphone. It’s not surprising that organizations want to ensure that this rapidly expanding customer base can access online content with ease.

What’s the Benefit of Putting Mobile First?

Instead of stripping down a browser-based application and removing many of the most attractive and compelling features to create a mobile version, development teams can ensure that the mobile experience is given the attention it deserves. With a properly designed mobile site as a starting point, developers can add enhancements for devices with larger screens and more client-side resources. The result is a satisfactory user experience across a broad range of handheld and desktop devices.

What Happens When Web Designs Aren’t Mobile First?

A highly responsive browser-based design intended for use with full-size screens is likely to require degradation of features to accommodate the limitations of a small touch screen. Developers may also run into performance issues with graphic-heavy sites since images tend to have a long load time or require increased design complexity to load to devices with limited resources.

What’s the Downside of Mobile First?

Finding or training software designers who can use mobile architecture as the starting place while keeping the requirements of web, command-line, and API development in mind is a significant challenge. Working with a small screen size as the initial canvas may constrain creativity for developers who are used to working with a broader suite of resources.

How Can You Spot Mobile First?

A design that puts mobile first is feature-rich yet elegantly streamlined. It offers intuitive navigation and very low latency to create a seamless user experience across multiple devices and operating systems. In contrast, mobile designs that are developed as an adjunct to browser-based designs tend to offer slow load times, unresponsive user interfaces, difficult navigation, and missing features.

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