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Episode #109 Luke Wroblewski’s "Why You Should Design for Mobile First" UI15 Session Sample

January 3, 2011  ·  12 minutes

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For years, the mobile web experience was little more than an afterthought as most design teams focused on catering their designs to the desktop. As Luke Wroblewski explains in his session “Why You Should Design for Mobile First” from the User Interface 15 Conference, this is becoming an increasingly backwards way of thinking.

Show Notes

For years, the mobile web experience was little more than an afterthought as most design teams focused on catering their designs to the desktop. As Luke Wroblewski explains in his session “Why You Should Design for Mobile First” from the User Interface 15 Conference, this is becoming an increasingly backwards way of thinking.

In the past, the constraints of mobile were a hindrance. This made the mobile web was a painful experience. But things have taken a dramatic turn in recent years. As the capabilities of the mobile web continue to progress, it allows for the constraints to now become beneficial in the design process.

This slide illustrates opportunities afforded by mobile design.

The first constraint Luke mentions is screen size. Because the screen size of mobile devices is significantly smaller than on a desktop, you have to remove roughly 80% of what is on the screen. There is simply no room. So you must focus on what’s important and make decisions on what needs to be included. This leaves you with a prioritized list that you can apply in multiple situations.

Luke goes on to talk about the performance speed of mobile devices. If you’re on the go and need to use your device to access the web, you don’t want it to become cumbersome. When you take this into consideration, a focus on speed and performance is a necessity. By consolidating your code and being aware of the size and amount of things that are being transmitted, you can really increase your speed and “get down the number of things you’re throwing over the wire.”

This slide illustrates how drop-off rates increase when page loads slow down.

Luke also talks about context as a constraint. In other words, how people are going to engage with their mobile devices. Mobile devices are with us all the time and are constantly in use. When designing for mobile, think about how people use the device all day, wherever they are.

Places where people access the mobile web.

This brings up the idea of simplifying your interface so that a user on the go can complete a task “with literally a thumb.”

Web applications on mobile devices are no longer just ported from their desktop versions. In some ways, they perform even better than their counterparts. As Luke says, designing for mobile first can actually help refine and improve the desktop experience.

The full recording of Luke’s discussion about designing for mobile first is available, along with the seven other Featured Talks, and Jared Spool’s keynote as part of UI15 OnDemand. Also included are all of the handouts and presentation slides from the talks as well as those from all 8 full day workshops. Get more information or place your order for UI15 OnDemand.