Another reason to think ‘mobile first’

I’ve talked in the past about designing websites from a ‘mobile first’ perspective. This means that instead of thinking about how their layouts should collapse to appear clearly on small, narrow screens, maybe designers should begin by just thinking about the mobile layout, and move on to ensure that their design also expands to look good on larger displays.

This is not just an exercise to ensure they haven’t forgotten to make the site legible on small screens. If we begin by considering a more limited display, we’re encouraged to keep the content simple. We don’t immediately get into an overcomplex, multi-columnar way of thinking, but instead we prioritise what matters.

And there’s another reason to think ‘mobile first’. It replicates what Google is now doing. This low-key Google blog post from last November announced a massive change in the way the search engine looks at our sites. It says: “Although our search index will continue to be a single index of websites and apps, our algorithms will eventually primarily use the mobile version of a site’s content to rank pages from that site, to understand structured data, and to show snippets from those pages in our results.”

If your site is fully responsive and serves up the same information to every device, just in a different layout, this shouldn’t be an issue. But if the content of your pages changes across devices, it could well be something that you need to address.