Mobile First Design vs. Mobile Last Design

One of the ways I ensure my web design skills and internet marketing skills are always moving forward and are up to date is listening to podcasts. There are many of them, and maybe one day I will do a post about them. But today I was listening to The Big Web Show (podcast 62: Kristofer Layon, @klayon), as with all TBWS it is hosted by the God Father of the Internet and the highly inspiring Jeffrey @Zeldman. If you don’t know who Jeffrey is then seriously go and research him, take a look at A List Apart and An Event Apart. Oh and don’t forget to take a look at his design company, Happy Cog.
Anyway, enough loving of the awesome. In the podcast Kris talks about methods of making mobile websites and making the experience awesome. He talks about how “mobile first” is the future and the way forward but he says something very important which is what inspired this article. Kris says that Mobile Last Design works.

This statement doesn’t just mean with new websites you can neglect mobile browsers. Indeed it is simply saying that if you have an existing site, even one with a fixed with and may look ugly in many browsers it can still perform on a mobile platform with a bit of work and tweaking.

This idea is something I have played around with for some time. I often create websites based on the majority of the likely audience, that has usually been the big screen. But today more of these company websites I design have a large existing mobile audience that will only grow from this point in.

Now let me define Mobile First Design, MFD is basically responsive design – look another buzzword mum! – this basically means a website which will adapt based on the size of screen. It doesn’t mean it looks the same across browsers just that it will function across most browsers. Mobile First is the idea of building websites for this too happen and also to put mobile websites as a priority, aka make sure it looks pretty there.

But for me Mobile First Design has a problem, there are billions of websites all ready in existence and for them to use MFD they would need a redesign or at least an overhaul of some manner. Which is why MLD for me works best, yes if possible go MFD but for all other purposes use MLD. Mobile Last Design works well, it is adding a bit of browser sniffing to detect the screen size and adding some styling for the browser size, this means you can take care of almost all browsers just modifying code and adding a bit – no huge redesign. It is all based on your current output HTML. It isn’t the easiest way to make your website usable on a mobile device but it is certainly a great stop gap and should not be sniffed at.

The main point to remember, and this is something I have said hundreds of times since starting this blog nearly 3 years ago, Content is King! Designing an awesome site is great, I love Great Design! But awesome content is simply the best, and without it I would never find your awesome design. And even if you have a crap design it doesn’t matter if you have awesome content. Content is King.

If you want to know more about Mobilising Your Websites check out this book by @klayon available on Amazon for little over £15.

Also don’t forget to subscribe to The Big Web Show, it has to be one of the best podcasts around for general web stuff and you get a weekly dose of @zeldman.