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Mobile First by Luke Wroblewski : A Review

The concept of Mobile First wasn’t new to me. How I understood it was approaching a website’s build from the mobile version first. This included choosing content, navigation, and inevitably design. So when I cracked the spine on Luke’s Mobile First book I had expectations, I was surprised as I read, that the approach was a bit different than I expected.

The books title threw me for a bit of a loop, Mobile First leads me to believe that desktop comes second, but in reality, Mobile is more primary and desktop is a footnote. It says, build a kickass mobile experience, and if done right it will still be a great desktop experience. Above all make your site a beautifully crafted mobile experience.

At first this seemed odd, but the facts are hard to ignore. It’s no secret that mobile is on the cusp of taking over. As Luke states

smartphones were predicted to out-ship the combined global market of laptop, desktop, and notebook computers in 2012. They did so in the last quarter of 2010, two years earlier than predicted.”

Before long the majority of users will be looking at our sites through a device they hold in their hands, be a tablet or a smartphone. We need to prepare for this.

Before reading this book I would finish building my site and then figure out how to squeeze it into my iphone and ipad, with less than perfect results. I have now realized the importance of really thinking through the approach in order to target the mobile audience. This is not only in design, but in content and usability. It’s the way a users clicks on a button and if that button will be big enough for the users finger size. It’s about the navigation and if it makes sense, and does it allow for content to remain the focus. Navigation is a heavy subject in this book, but supplies some reasonable solutions for a variety of challenges.

One key thing I learned from this read was that it’s not about resizing your site to fit mobile, its about making sure your perfect mobile site still works well in larger screens. We will likely have people viewing our sites on larger screens for years to come, and that’s not something we should ignore. We must remember its not just the size of the users monitor we have to compete with but how difficult it will be for the user to interact with the site based on the device they are using. Responsive design covers different screen sizes, it allows our sites to be more fluid and respond to the screen size it is being viewed through. Mobile first takes it a step further to insure both customers walk away pleased with their own unique experience. 

We as designers and developers are now faced with a new challenge, and now more than ever, we have to anticipate things before they become mainstream. It’s true, currently you can still get away with a less than perfect mobile experience. Your client doesn’t have the budget, you don’t have the time, there are plenty of reasons, and for now they will do. But in a years time you may be faced with the reality of a site loosing a large amount of traffic due to its inefficiencies when used on a mobile device. You can now get ahead of the curve by embracing the Mobile First approach.

First came HTML5 & CSS3, then came Responsive Design, and now we have Mobile First. Welcome to the new way things are done on the web, don’t get too comfortable though, things won’t stay the same for long.

Thanks for reading,
Matthew

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