The Evolution of Design Thinking: A Dive into Mobile-First Strategy

Rising from Restrictions: The Origin of Mobile-First The evolution of technological tools has always shifted how designers think. At the forefront of this transformation is the mobile-first design philosophy. Born out of the need to cater to increasing mobile users, mobile-first is a derivative of the ‘progressive advancement’ strategy.

Long before this, designers faced a dilemma. Two dominant ideologies existed: “Progressive Advancement” and “Graceful Degradation.” The latter focused on starting from the most advanced platform (like desktops) and then stripping away features to accommodate lesser devices. In contrast, progressive advancement begins with the most basic version of the design, catering to smaller devices and then building upon it.

Given the constraints mobile devices introduced, like screen size and bandwidth, starting with them forced designers to focus on the essentials. The design became neater, leaner, and more effective by prioritizing crucial features. As a result, mobile-first, which is essentially a champion of the progressive advancement ideology, emerged as the dominant strategy.

A New Era: Why Mobile Became the Gold Standard The shift toward the mobile-first approach wasn’t arbitrary. Tangible data drove it:

  • In 2016, mobile internet usage overtook its desktop counterpart.
  • By 2012, smartphone sales surpassed those of PCs.
  • The average user spent increasingly more time accessing the internet via mobile devices.

These shifts didn’t just suggest but rather screamed the need for a design strategy prioritizing mobile devices.

Crafting for Mobile: Steps in Mobile-First Design At its core, the mobile-first approach champions content. Take a hypothetical hotel booking application as an example:

  1. Prioritize Content:
    • Website name
    • Hotel categories (Domestic, Foreign, Hourly, Special)
    • Time selectors (check-in, departure)
    • User’s orders
    • Customer service
    • Promotions and advertising
  1. Draft the Mobile Version: The most crucial components, like hotel categories and time selectors, find prominence in the primary interface.
  2. Expand for Desktop: Building upon the mobile version, features can be added, and spaces (like advertising areas) can be expanded to fit larger screens.

Tools today enable designers to prototype their designs efficiently. This saves time and aids in refining the design by identifying potential issues early on.

Future Gazing: Is Mobile-First Here to Stay? With rapid advancements in smartphone technology, mobile devices are no longer the ‘weaker’ end of the tech spectrum. Does this mean the demise of the mobile-first strategy? Only time will tell. While the mobile-first philosophy might not always dominate, its impact on emphasizing content-driven designs remains undeniable. As we continue to evolve in the digital age, it serves as a reminder that, sometimes, constraints can lead to the most innovative solutions.