What is Mobile First Design?
Four billion people -- 51% of the world's population -- access the internet exclusively from their smartphones. By 2025, that figure is expected to increase to 72.5%. Many deveoping countries' emerging digital markets have skipped the desktop internet phase entirely, taking advantage of the low infrastructure and lesser financial restraints associated with mobile internet access via smartphone and tablet devices.
In the late 90s and early 2000s, users and developers alike focused on desktop-based websites when looking to the internet, and mobile experiences were not a priority. Sites were built with the assumption that most people would have small, low-definition displays. Now that smartphones, tablets, and high definition desktops have entered the fray, it no longer makes sense to design for one standard size. It has become increasingly more important for developers to build modular web applications that will display differently on a myriad of devices.
At the Mobile World Congress in 2010, Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google, introduced the idea that designers should follow the “mobile first” rule in product design. Mobile first design is exactly what it sounds like: a design process that begins with its focus on designing for mobile devices. By starting with the smallest devices and their restrictions in mind, those limits allow us to include only the most essential features. With this core of essentials providing the heart of our UX, we can then expand a website’s features and complexity when creating a tablet or desktop version.