Tech Talk: 5 Reasons to Abandon ‘Mobile First’
Tech Talk is a new monthly series that probes and ponders tech trends, and how they relate to the business of creativity. The first installment is a deep dive into mobile first web design, and why it’s time to reconsider this outmoded approach. Here are five reasons to abandon ‘mobile first’.
1. Context is Everything
What sort of information is your site going to house? How will it be accessed? Should the experience be limited to a smaller screen? Will doing this hinder its accessibility? There are always a lot of questions in web design but there’s never an overarching answer to good user experience, and taking a generalized approach is a great way to make a mediocre website.
2. The World Isn’t ‘Mobile First’
One size does not fit all, and mobile and desktop audiences engage with content in different ways. Mobile design is influenced by immediacy: snackable content served quickly. Desktop design is preferable for more complex interactions, and longer time-on-site averages. Think about Instagram versus the New York Times; both designs have a purpose and a place, and both would suffer greatly from sharing one another’s user experience.
3. What Works for Mobile May Not Work for Desktop
If you’re having trouble fitting certain content onto a small screen, it may not need to be there. Content and content formats can and should change depending on their context. For example, desktop design can handle large tables of information, whereas mobile design is better suited for card layouts. There’s no reason not to change the formatting for both large and small screens.
This isn’t to say desktop design enjoys free reign to overextend and overpopulate itself with extraneous information and design details; desktop web pages should still be clear and concise. Poorly planned content doesn’t have a place in any design.
4. Self-Limiting Trends Are Short Lived
Focusing design on a single data point guarantees opportunities will be missed. Mobile devices aren’t a trend, but mobile device sizes are. In the beginning it was all about small, then the devices got bigger, and bigger, and bigger. Screen size fluctuates wildly from year to year, and device to device, and limitless variation represents a rabbit hole no designer wants to find themselves going down.
5. Why Paint Yourself into a Corner?
The best way to land new business online is to cast a wide net and focusing your user experience on a single screen size will limit your ability to communicate with nuance and impact. We live in a big, beautiful and diverse digital world; the more tools at your disposal the more you’ll get out of it.
‘Mobile also’ requires more work. Double the work to be exact, but ‘mobile first’ was a trend to encourage audiences to adapt their digital behavior to small screens, and audiences are now well adapted. Mobile design shouldn’t an afterthought or a forethought, it’s just part of the process.