7 Principles of Successful Mobile First Design

Mobile-first design is the process of designing sites with compatibility for mobile devices in mind. This creates a better user experience for people using those devices.

When a designer is conceptualising or creating a prototype for a website layout, they design it for the smallest screen, such as a mobile phone, first, and then adjust the design for larger screens later, rather than the other way around.

Mobile-first design focuses on the most important UX components of your website to create an engaging, functional site, optimised for mobile users.


Why is mobile-first design important?

Currently, over 50% of web traffic is coming from mobile users, and this figure is projected to get much higher (potentially up to 72.5% by 2025), so it just makes sense to use mobile-first design.

As well as the majority of your traffic coming from mobile users, Google’s algorithm favours mobile-friendly sites, so you’re more likely to rank highly and actually be found by your desired audience if you’ve got a mobile-first site.

If you’ve got an ecommerce site, mobile-friendliness is especially important as users are also more likely to shop and return to a website that is optimised for mobile use.


How to implement mobile-first design

1. Optimise for the thumb zone

The thumb zone refers to the areas of a mobile device screen that the user’s thumbs can reach easily and comfortably. Whether we use our phones one-handed or two-handed when browsing the internet, most of us only use our thumbs.

Make sure you place the important interactive elements of your site where they can easily be reached, such as any popular links, the navigation menu and any CTAs. Try and keep everything well-spaced too, so that you don’t encourage erroneous clicks – this can lead to incredibly frustrated mobile users!

2. Responsive web design

Responsive web design allows your content to adapt to the different screen sizes of different devices. This means you can have multiple separate layouts for your content, providing the best user experience for each screen type, rather than blowing up or shrinking down the web page to fit. Your users will be using tablets, laptops and mobile phones with various screen sizes and aspect ratios, so one-size-fits-all really won’t cut it.

3. Split content into short, digestible paragraphs

Huge blocks of text aren’t appealing on any screen size, but they’re especially off-putting on mobile devices. Splitting your content into small paragraphs makes it much more digestible for the user while providing some much-needed visual space. Because your text size will also be bigger, your paragraphs will need to be shorter.

4. Use larger buttons, links, and text for easier interaction

As we mentioned earlier, the thumbs are the star of the show when it comes to mobile browsing, but they also aren’t the most precise, so you need to make sure that any buttons, links, or other interactive elements are large enough to be clicked easily without accidentally clicking anything else. Your text also needs to be larger than it would be on a laptop or desktop so that your users don’t have to squint or enlarge the page.

5. Use high-quality images and videos

Just as your web design should be mobile-first, the images and videos you use should also be optimised for the small screen. Otherwise, your users may be left wondering whether there’s a technical issue blurring the visuals on your site, reloading the page to no avail. Sharp, clear images and quick loading videos are a mark of a professional site, so make it happen!

6. Make more content scrollable

Scrolling is natural and easy on mobile devices – just think of all the hours we spend mindlessly scrolling through social feeds. However, clicking through to additional pages isn’t so fluid. Make more of your content scrollable so that users can access the content they need without navigating away.

7. Keep the design clean and simple

Your content has to do the heavy lifting in mobile-first design because there’s often not much room on the page to give your users more than the essentials they need to experience your site’s full functionality. 

Anything more than this can clutter the page and spoil the UX. This may mean reducing the number of links in your navigation menu, using as few columns as possible, keeping wide borders and clean lines and using collapsible menus.


You can’t afford to put mobile users second anymore. More people than ever will be accessing your site solely through mobile devices, so make sure their user experience is a good one and they’re sure to come back again.

At our brilliant website design studio in Exeter, we have the ideal team to help you put together a mobile-first site that gets your users hooked no matter where they access the site from, so give us a shout and see how we can help!