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Brands and Mobile First Design

You may have heard the term ‘Mobile First’ in the past two years, or perhaps it’s new to you. In either case, I suspect you will be hearing more and more about it over the next year and will be including its basic precepts in to your strategic communications planning. You will also likely hear a fair amount of naysayers weighing in on the topic.

The idea behind the mobile first approach is that web sites should be designed and developed first for mobile devices, to include only the content and features that website visitors require. Then add features as the screen size increases to capitalize on technology, the additional visual space and user preferences.



According to Luke Wroblewski, a leading proponent of mobile first design, going mobile first:

• Prepares you for the explosive growth and new opportunities emerging on mobile today,
• Forces you to focus and prioritize your offerings by embracing the constraints inherent in mobile design, and
• Allows you to deliver innovative experiences by building on new capabilities native to mobile devices and modes of use.

Mobile first is different than, but related to, responsive design—but that’s another post entirely.

Interestingly, the term mobile first has also been applied in a number of other scenarios, including as a reference to the youngest generation who are introduced to and interacting with mobile devices before static ones. Have you seen the video of the baby playing on a tablet, then handed a book and tries to make it move like an iPad screen? Also, it’s applied to that part of the population who primarily—or only—use their mobile devices to access all things digital. After all, there are some eye-opening statistics here:

• mobile reaches 87% of the world’s population
• is more pervasive than any other mass medium
• more people have access to mobile phones than to running water
• 31% of US citizens use mobile devices as their primary way of accessing the web

But as a development philosophy, mobile first is here and now. It actually encompasses the essence of great design and communications—which is the old KISS principle. Strip away all the excess and leave only the purest and most important. That’s the content to work with. That’s what a mobile first build forces you do. We’re applying that principle to site design now and reaping the benefits of clarity and effectiveness. Try it—it’s a great frame of mind to be in.

by Frank Kurland


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