What is Mobile First Design???

Mobile First Design is a growing trend among the web design industry.  As the digital landscape gets increasingly complex, we need to design for user experiences across a wide spectrum of digital devices.

Traditionally, a web designer would approach the desktop side of a project first, fulfilling all the sites needs before any mobile considerations. But the philosophy of mobile first design, developed by Luke Wroblewski in 2011, completely flips this workflow around.

Why Mobile First Design?

Pew Research Center reported that as of January of 2017 one in ten American adults are smart phone reliant for internet usage.  This  proves that users are leaving their landline internet services and adopting our mobile phones for primary internet access.

Cisco mobile users stats prediction for 2020

Future Proof.  Mobile first allows you to ensure your website is prepared for the explosive growth of mobile users.  It also allows you to avoid the need for an immediate website redesign.

Guarantee Good User Experience.  Designing for mobile first forces us to focus on user experience to ensure the website still conveys the message intended on the smaller screens.

Cleaner & Clearer Design.  A mobile first design is in minimalist style, offering only the essentials.

Speed Optimization.  By starting your design with the bare minimum content, you ensure your website loads at optimal speeds.  This avoids unnecessary lag on the smart phone devices that typically have lower processing speeds and limited data plans.

Incorporates innovative touch technology.  Mobile first design allows web designers to take advantage of new technology like geolocation, touch events, and other extended capabilities to create rich context-aware websites.


 What is the difference between Mobile First Design and Responsive Web Design?

Responsive design is adapting a website’s layout for different screen resolutions using fluid grids that respond with a device’s screen size.  Different elements of the page are able to change when viewing them on a smaller screen. The text will shrink and photo sizes will reduce, or not even exist, on a mobile platform.

One of the differences between mobile first design and responsive web design is that all the information for the full site is still accessible by the mobile version, and it can take longer to load.  Some other difference of Mobile First Vs Responsive Web Design are below.

Mobile First Design Responsive Web Design
Rendering Experience A mobile site is essentially a copy of your website, where the server does the work to deliver an optimized page that’s smaller and easier to navigate.
The solution can really customize a unique experience for mobile users.
In responsive design, the device does the work and automatically adjusts according to a device’s screen size (large or small) and orientation (landscape or portrait). It switches between these options on-the-fly.
Domain Protection With a mobile site, you must create a different domain (many companies choose to differentiate theirs by “m.domain.com”). Responsive design lets you keep your own domain—nothing changes except code on the back-end.
Link Equity Because a mobile site uses a separate domain, links shared from mobile browsers will not count as search link equity toward your primary site. Since responsive design simply embeds new code on the back-end of your website, your company’s link equity is preserved.


Designing for mobile first not only prepares your website for the explosive growth that is already happening in the mobile space, but as a designer and developer, it forces you to focus on the user.

While I’ve been saying “mobile” first, do note that the principles are not limited to mobile devices. It’s all about better usability, better use of screen real estate and better use of page elements and code – things we should always keep at the forefront, but which often get buried under fuss of design desires and client demands.

And as a firm believer in less is more, I love mobile first.

Need a web designer for your Mobile First Design?  Lets discuss your project!


11 thoughts on “What is Mobile First Design???”

  1. This makes sense considering how easy and accessible web pages are on phones these days. When it first came out, websites were cumbersome and limited on phones. Now with so many having minicomputers in their hands that’s the main way the access websites. I prefer to use my laptop because I enjoy being able to see things on the larger screen and have maximum functionality but in a pinch I’ll use my phone.

    1. I still favor designing and developing the desktop version of a website because the limitations are less, the design is spread across such a wider viewpoint that balancing objects is easier and adding featured elements and interaction media is limitless.

      When I’m not working, I’m typically mobile and hate it when I find a site that I need to pinch or navigate from left to right to read. It’s time consuming, frustrating, and hard to read.

      1. Yeah, I’m not going to pretend to like any of it. As a WordPress user, I’m thankful all of that is taken care of because when I was on Wix years ago I hated having to navigate every single aspect of my website. Thank goodness for the platforms that save me time and are visually appealing to my audience. 🙂

  2. I like this idea. It feels like responsive design is more of a patch or adaptation while Mobile First is specifically designed for this purpose. Thank you for sharing this valuable information.

  3. This is is so true of web design and everything digital marketing wise! In my recent roles we have prioritised mobile completely. It’s key for SEO too and in reality most people are browsing on mobile. So it really is critical! There’s really no other way, it has to be mobile first now and the future of digital.

    Amanda | http://ldnrose.com

  4. I think it’s becoming very evident that we are approaching a mobile everything age. My website has a mobile site, I would be pretty dumb not to have one. Thanks for a great post, I sure learned alot.

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