This book is really just a small, simple idea. But like many other simple ideas before it, this idea has deep and far-reaching implications. It changes how we define the personal computer and how we use the web. While that’s a very big deal, it can be boiled down to how we get started.
For years, most web teams have designed products and information for desktop and laptop computers. For these teams, mobile was an afterthought if even a thought at all. Sadly, this approach actually made sense in many parts of the world for quite a while. Browsing the web on mobile phones was painful; carriers controlled access to the web on their devices; and mobile network speeds often made everything grind to a halt. Very few people used the web on mobiles (unless they were in Japan), and those that did were usually faced with an unpleasant experience.
But things have changed so dramatically over the past few years that starting with the desktop may be an increasingly backward way of thinking about a web product. Designing for mobile first now can not only open up new opportunities for growth, it can lead to a better overall user experience for a website or application.
Which brings us to our “small” idea. Websites and applications should be designed and built for mobile first. Going mobile first:
In fact, there’s enough benefit to a mobile first design approach that it’s worth thinking about even if you don’t have immediate plans to ship a mobile experience. Just a half-day of brainstorming about your mobile experience can open up new ways of thinking about your product.
But don’t just take my word for it. Some of the biggest web companies in the world are adopting a mobile first design philosophy as well. Google Chairman Eric Schmidt advises: “The simple guideline is whatever you are doing—do mobile first.” Kate Aronowitz, Facebook’s Director of Design, says “We’re just now starting to get into mobile first and then web second for a lot of our products. What we’re finding is that the designers on mobile are really embracing the constraints [and] that it’s actually teaching us a lot about how to design back to the desktop.” And Kevin Lynch, Adobe’s CTO, states: “We really need to shift to think about mobile first….This is a bigger shift than we saw with the personal computing revolution.”
For these organizations and many others like them, mobile first is a big deal. But why is mobile so important and how can you get started designing for it? Well, that’s why you’re holding a whole book about this small idea in your hands.
Your time is precious so this book is short and to the point. The first section outlines why a mobile first approach for websites and applications makes sense now. The second section details how designing mobile web experiences is different (from designing desktop web experiences) so you can take what you know about designing for the web and get started on mobile today.
You won’t find any code in this book; there are many programmers out there who can provide better advice on mobile development than I can. What you will find is a business case for mobile first and many design patterns and best practices that you can continue coming back to as you design and develop mobile web experiences.
It’s also worth pointing out up front that I’m going to use the term “mobile web experience” instead of “mobile web” or “mobile website” throughout this book. Fundamentally, there’s just one World Wide Web, but it can be experienced in different ways on different devices. We’re focusing on the mobile experience in these pages.
Now I promised conciseness, so let’s dispense with the introductions and dive into how going small first can ultimately help you go very, very big.