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What is Mobile-First Approach in Web Design

The technological revolution has led to the expansion of digital space and mobile device development. The rapid growth of mobile devices leads to the increase of a larger audience base from mobile screens. Web traffic from mobile devices increased to 50% as audiences became more reliable on mobile devices. The shift in audience preferences and increased traffic from mobile devices led to the invention of a mobile-first approach to web design and development. We have to drastically change the way we design and develop according to mobile users. A mobile-first approach in web design is a strategy that targets website development and design for mobile devices first and progressively enhances to larger screen sizes. This guide aims to explore the intricacies of a mobile-first approach and provide you with the proper way to follow a mobile-first approach to reach a large audience.

What is Mobile-First Approach?

A mobile-first approach in web design is the strategy of planning and developing a website considering the needs of the mobile screen user first. This means creating a better experience for mobile users by starting the development process from a smaller screen rather than a larger one. The mobile-first approach focuses on minimalism development instead of bloating many elements. It focuses on the only essential elements by eliminating the unnecessary stuff that interests mobile users less. From here, we can use the progressive enhancement concept to expand and add more elements and features to the tablet, laptop, and computer screens. While you progress toward the larger screens, you can easily add advanced elements to make life easier for power users. The main advantage of a mobile-first approach is that it’s easier to scale if your website is good on mobile devices. The mobile-first approach is also known as the content-first approach because mobile devices have limited screen size and bandwidth, so developing and designing websites considering these parameters focuses on the content. Indirectly, the mobile-first approach leads to a more content and user-centric website, as content is the heart of the website, which users need most. Another advantage of the mobile-first approach in web design is small screen breakpoints easily fit and scale to larger screens.

Implementing A Mobile-First Approach

Now that we have understood the concept of the mobile-first approach in web design, if you choose the mobile-first approach, it can be broken down into the following steps to make implementation easier.

1. Prioritize Content

Prioritizing and crafting different content for different screen sizes is most important because a website on a desktop screen demands additional content and attention. So, it’s easy to add the content you want to the big screen. But the same approach doesn’t work the same way on smaller or mobile screens because when the screen is smaller, you have less space and time to grab the user’s attention, so you must add specific and concise content. Crafting the content according to the screen size is the only reasonable option. While you follow a mobile-first approach, you should follow a minimalistic approach to web design. The minimalist approach follows the rule of distributing content and element while leaving a good amount of white space for the user, so your website and content is easy to follow as a user. Adhering to a mobile-first and minimalistic approach leads to an easy scale-up toward larger screen sizes. Make sure to create a spreadsheet or document with several columns for each screen size and the content for the screen size you intend to add to your web design. This list gives us a clear perspective of the content while designing the website. The screenshot below illustrates the Delphintechnologies website and highlights the content difference for the larger and mobile screens. Delphin Technologies website and highlights - Web Design

2. Wireframing and Breakpoints

Wireframing is the process of constructing a two-dimension illustration or map of the website page interface. It focuses on space allocation, content prioritization, functionalities & features, and the intended behavior of the website. The created illustration, known as a wireframe, doesn’t include any color or styling. To follow a mobile-first approach to web design, create a wireframe for the smallest screen and breakpoint, such as a mobile, and then scale it up to a higher breakpoint, such as a tablet or laptop. Crafting and following wireframes ensures your design is optimized for small and large screens. It also helps you understand the scaling and adaptability of the design. When you create wireframes, you should understand the breakpoints for devices of different screen sizes. Building a website for every breakpoint is impossible, so you should stick to resolution ranges by mixing responsive content.

The screen sizes can be divided into three categories:

  1. Small Screens (smaller than 640px)
  2. Medium Screens (Between 641px to 1007px)
  3. Large Screens (larger than 1008px)

3 Thumb-friendly elements and CTA placement

Content placement on the mobile screen is the most important. Before you decide to place and distribute the content on the website, you have to decide the location for each element ranked according to their importance because mobile users use the thumb for interaction. The more concise and clear reason for that is that most people use one hand while using the mobile and operate it using their thumb most of the time. A survey shows that more than 75% of people use their thumb to operate mobile devices, and the image below shows the habit of using a mobile with one hand and interacting through their thumb. This includes left-handed, right-handed, and a combination of both. possibility of accidentally clicking on the wrong element - Web Design The green zone in the above image shows the most accessible area on the mobile screen for users. This means that the most important elements, such as CTA buttons, icons, and clickable links, reside within the green zone for easy and quick access. Placing the element in the most accessible area became more important as the user used mobile to browse the website. If you add important elements inside the red zone, users have to make efforts to reach them or may have to use a second hand to do so, and it becomes frustrating for the user. When you add CTAs and important clickable links, always try to add enough space between them as the thumb is bigger than the available pixels on the screen, and it opens up the possibility of accidentally clicking on the wrong element.

4. Debugging

Debugging and testing a website before deployment is essential as it helps us to identify problems and quirks so you can be sure that an optimized and user-friendly website goes live. But it is quite impossible to test your application on each and every device. To solve the problem, many browsers provide a built-in tool to test website responsiveness on different screen sizes, including mobiles, tablets, and computers. Let’s learn how you can use the Mozilla Firefox built-in tool to test the responsiveness and adaptability of the website.
  • Make sure to open your website in the Firefox browser.
  • Press the keyboard Ctrl + Shift + M (or Cmd + Opt + M on macOS) to open the Responsive design mode like the image below.
Mozilla Firefox built-in tool to test the responsiveness and adaptability You can easily test your website for the different screen sizes using the list of available devices and giving the custom height and width to the website. If the website elements aren’t responsive, they overflow the screen size and add the scroll bar. website elements aren’t responsive The above image shows the dropdown menu for different devices, such as mobile, tablet, or laptop. You can easily choose any of them to see the responsiveness of your website on that particular screen size. And even you see a red highlighted area where you can enter a custom width and height in pixels to test your website. Let’s say you want to test your website on Pixel 2 Android 8 mobile device. Then all you have to do is to select the device name from the dropdown menu, and it displays how your website appears on that screen size. device name from the dropdown menu - Web Design


We all know that mobile devices are currently dominating the market, and therefore we must use the mobile-first approach in web design to build a visually consistent website. The mobile-first approach eventually helps us gain user attention, ultimately resulting in higher engagement, conversion and web traffic. If implementing a mobile-first approach sounds hard for you, then hiring a web design agency is a better option. If you are looking for someone to assist you with web design, then delphin technologies will be pleased to help you. Delphin Technologies have a lot of experience working with clients with 100% satisfactory results and even did web design for Florida-based various clients and startups.

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