The majority of websites are receiving more and more visitors through mobile devices. However, it is my claim that the so-called mobile-first approach is a myth. Most developers still start the development process with the desktop version!
It has been many years since I first encountered the concept of mobile-first. The idea is to prioritize developing the mobile version of a website first since that’s where we encounter most of our customers. But evidence suggests that development still predominantly starts with the desktop version. Let me provide you with two arguments for this:
Developers are desktop users
In August of 2023, there is a gathering of Danish WordPress enthusiasts for a day of lectures and valuable insights on WordPress usage. It seems like an interesting event, but there are two things that indicate the development of the event’s website primarily focused on the desktop.
Firstly, they mention early on that users can sign up for newsletters in the sidebar. Sidebars rarely function well on mobile sites, and moreover, such references can lead to reduced web accessibility.
If one wants to purchase tickets, they encounter a different problem. This part of the site requires a mobile device like a Samsung Galaxy Z Fold4 to view all the information.
Many designers and developers use desktop computers in their daily work, and this naturally influences their perspectives and thoughts about what they develop. It’s also more enjoyable to design on a desktops large “canvas” than on a small mobile one. Therefore, many sites still start with desktop and then adapt to the mobile screen. However, not everything can be easily adapted!
WordPress is still desktop-oriented
The most widely used content management system (CMS) worldwide is WordPress, which is used on 63% of websites – including this one! WordPress has many excellent features, but there are some challenges when it comes to designing and developing with a mobile-first approach.
If I want to create a blog post or a new page, I’m greeted with this image in the default editor:
You can’t even switch to mobile preview until you’ve entered some text.
On the other hand, if you use an editor like Elementor (which is one of the most popular ones), it doesn’t get better. The development automatically starts in desktop mode, and when inserting blocks, it also defaults to the desktop version, even if you’ve selected mobile view.
This indicates that development still starts with the desktop version – there is simply friction in going the mobile-first route!
Mobile-first approach for the caveman I understand that data still indicates better conversion rates on mobile devices. But perhaps it’s because our designs are not developed specifically for mobile users; we simply adapt the desktop version.
It’s time for designers and developers to genuinely prioritize mobile when they develop!