Mobile First Things First I’m the Realist

Kate on Tap No. 3

Best read while drinking whiskey. Neat. Because no one loves whiskey and buzzwords quite like Jack Donaghy — and we all love Jack Donaghy.


Mobile First. Graceful Degradation. Progressive Enhancement. Vertical Integration. SYNERGY.

A buzzword is an illusion of something that is, in reality, a much bigger conversation and strategy. Yet everyone preaches the mobile first gospel like they are going to move to a ranch in the middle of nowhere and start wearing them same damn color. To me, it’s absurd.

It’s pretty easy to find the numbers: mobile Internet traffic is massive. Awesome. Much excitement. It used to be that you made a website and it looked great on a desktop and like shit on a phone. Now, the pendulum has swung the other direction. Those same websites look and work great on a phone but are boring, unimaginative templates on a desktop. That isn’t solving the problem. I don’t think it’s good enough and it annoys the shit out of me. It’s only a matter of time before smart watches take this spot. People going around praising wearable firstcan you imagine? Keep an eye out for Kate on Tap No. 318, “Wearable First: This Time it’s Personal”.

When I create a website, I am thinking about how it looks and works everywhere from the very beginning. I’m not designing one view and then building or taking away to get to the end result. It responds where it needs to respond and adapts where it needs to adapt.

It drives me insane when mobile first is used as a crutch. Bootstrap’s bloat is mixed with CMS content in a way that all sites start looking exactly the same for the sake of a site being “responsive.” Content should have a hierarchy everywhere, which makes it easy to decide what's most important on all devices. That doesn’t require a mobile first approach; it just requires you knowing what you’re making and who you’re making it for.

It’s not about WHAT people are viewing on phones, it’s about WHY and WHEN they are viewing it on their phones.

It’s not good enough anymore to just have a site respond to the width of a device. Phones are fundamentally a utility. People use them to perform a task just like a computer, but when and why they use them is different. If someone is coming to your website from their phone, how can you adapt the experience for what they are looking for? This could be something like prioritizing your contact info and address if you’re a business or something as simple as making sure your call to action is easily available if you’re selling a product.

But once again, that doesn’t require a mobile first approach, it just requires knowing what you’re making and who you’re making it for.


Kate on Tap a series written by Kate Ferrara while at the bar. Each article is paired with an appropriate alcoholic beverage for your reading & drinking pleasure.

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