Responsive web design has become a standard solution for delivering web content not only to desktop, but to a whole slew of mobile devices. The traditional approach to creating a website that works responsively has been to design and build the desktop version first, and then use CSS media-queries to deliver a mobile version. The common disadvantage of this approach is that the mobile website is something of an afterthought; a poorly conceived interface that does not successfully represent its brand or meet the business requirements of the website.

As the name suggests, mobile-first design turns that workflow on its head and starts the design process at the mobile version, working up to desktop screen size/resolution. (To illustrate the impact of this method on the user-focused-design community, those clever folks at Google adopted this approach back in 2010 and since then have designed exclusively using mobile-first).

Perhaps the most distinct advantage of Mobile-first is that UI designers are required to be more considerate of the key concepts of Information Architecture, UX and Usability in their designs due to the restrictions presented by less space on-screen. This requirement in turn provides a strong foundation for progressive enhancement as the mobile version design is adapted to desktop.

The overall goal of mobile-first (at least in theory) is to create a more intuitive, streamlined and user-focused online experience, across multiple devices and with minimal design ‘clutter’. This thinking fits very nicely with one of Webnetism’s key design philosophies, summed up perfectly by French aviator and writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery - ‘Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.’

In digital design terms, and with the advent and widespread adoption of mobile internet, we think that this has never been more accurate and relevant to the wonderful world of UI and user-focused-design. As ambassadors for great UI design, usability and accessibility regardless of how you connect to the internet – the design team here at Webnetism support mobile-first design and hope that by adopting this approach we can contribute to a more beautiful and intuitive mobile internet in the years to come.

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