Most of the older web pages and apps were designed for PC users. This is because in the beginning nobody foresaw that mobile would be the preferred medium through which people go about their business. These established companies then had to adapt their web and app designs for a smaller screen. This process is known as graceful degradation. The negative aspect of this approach is that the entire philosophy runs the risk of treating mobile design as more of an afterthought since you’re “cutting down” the experience.
In today’s world there is simply too much competition in the mobile app market to provide anything short of the most user friendly experience. The opposite of this is following a mobile-first approach. As the name suggests mobile design, as the hardest, should be done first. If you can get your mobile version right, then it is very easy to build on it and add various levels of complexities.
The gaming industry for example, provides many instances of the importance in a mobile first design approach; especially for startups entering the market, with ambitions to access a big chunk of the market. Furthermore, when online casinos started out, the first few were able to attain a large portion of the gambling community, since they created the market. As a result, the current situation is that in spite of the fact there are hundreds of online casinos, it can be argued that only a small number of operators hold the majority of players.
The down side of these early online operators is that the move to mobile can be a tough adjustment from where they have dominated over the years. Recent studies have also shown the greatest percentage of users to be on mobile platforms. Therefore, startups entering the market who can identify this characteristic of the market can adopt a mobile first design catering for this huge chunk of the market, after which they can build up and provide the opportunity for these mobile users to switch to their web browser experience which offers a wider range of services.
Mobile first can also be referred to as the content first approach. When designing for mobile devices there are a lot of limitations which require you to prioritise content ruthlessly. Only the most relevant and useful information makes it to mobile therefore it is important to know exactly what content your users find useful. It is important to note that the mobile first approach doesn’t mean eliminating information but prioritising and sorting information effectively for the particular device.
While keeping all of this in mind what needs to be remembered is that mobiles are very powerful devices and keep on improving every year. This means that eventually businesses are not going to be required to “scale down” their designs to fit the mobile market; but to provide a design that provides the simple, easy to use and reliable applications that mobile users value.