Mobile First development or design is an approach that consists of developing a software application and designing a user experience by optimizing it for the mobile rather than the computer.
The PC or web version will only be thought about later, as the project evolves. This is a real reversal of trends, since mobile applications were designed after their PC versions.
The term Mobile First was first used in 2009 by Luke Wroblewski. However, it was popularized at the Mobile World Congress 2010 by Eric Schmidt, then CEO of Google. According to him, it was already essential for application developers to follow this approach.
This Mobile First approach has several advantages. When designing a PC version of the software, developers have much more space to work with, since the screen is larger and allows more content to be displayed.
Previously, certain design elements of PC software could not be transposed to mobile versions. As a result, mobile applications appeared as inferior versions to PC software.
By starting by developing a mobile version, developers can prioritize features and capabilities and identify essential design elements. They will then be free to evolve these foundations on the PC version.
The Mobile First design has become popular with the rise of smartphones. These mobile devices are now an integral part of our daily lives, and we use them more and more every day.
Primarily used for gaming, sports or photography, smartphones are now being used for shopping, entertainment, news and productivity. So they are no longer gadgets, but a computing platform that has dethroned the PC since the end of 2016.
In 2019, 80% of Internet users will use their smartphones to surf the web. The requirements in terms of experiences for mobile applications have therefore naturally increased, and developers must meet these expectations.
It is a transformation that is very well integrated in the BtoC industry, but much less so in BtoB. Indeed, the requirements of individuals are strong in terms of ergonomics and readability. Rare are the applications intended for professionals allowing a comfortable and relevant use on cell phones.
The Mobile-First approach is not limited to software development. It also applies to the design of websites and user experiences. The presentation of a website must be optimized for mobile devices, with a responsive design that can automatically adapt to the screen size.
As a general rule, a good mobile-first design should highlight the content while avoiding distracting elements as much as possible. Minimalism is essential to make the most of the small screen of a smartphone.
Finally, it must also allow easy navigation, for example with a hamburger menu or combo navigation. However, the smartphone market is evolving very quickly. Consequently, Mobile First design is also being brought to keep up with the market's speed of evolution.