Why Content First Beats Mobile First

Why Mobile First Beats Content First

When I interviewed for my most recent job as a Web Developer, which ultimately turned into a UX/UI Developer role, I was asked if I take the position of mobile first or desktop first. By that time I had already considered that debate as having been beaten worse than the dead horse analogy and was a bit confused as to why it had been asked.

My answer: neither.

Tweet this:We don’t—rather, I don’t—build websites for devices. I build websites to house content.

Some of you might disagree with my thoughts. Maybe you think that the idea of content first goes without saying and that I should still take the stance of mobile—or desktop—first.

You’d be wrong in thinking that “content first” goes without saying.

Tweet this:People forget that content is the reason the Internet exists. Yes, porn is content.

With that said, I came across this tweet yesterday.


The text on the watch reads “all content on the web should [be] accessible to anyone using…(the rest was cut of by the device). At 241 by 218 pixels, what are users really expecting to see? What content can you deliver to them? All content shouldn’t be available in all places. Not for reading, anyway.

But that’s a post for another day.

Tweet this:A mobile first, or desktop first, approach works for one-sized-fits-all templates.

This is one of the reasons why you might find a beautiful WordPress template that looks like crap once someone sticks their content in it, thought it may work really well for someone else. One size never really fits all.

When building a custom site, I like to take a custom approach to presenting the content. Which is why I don’t design (if I can help it) before the content is prepared. Right, I said no designing.

Tweet this:Planning comes first and, for the record, designing isn’t the same as creating a plan.

If you don’t mind me taking a more practical approach to this topic, consider you’re building a customized house for a family. Would you start building before you know how many people are going to live there?

You could build a beautiful mansion and find out that your masterpiece is only accommodating a single mom and a baby. That might not be the right fit.

You could build a lovely little apartment/flat and find out that mom, dad, grandma, two sets of twins, the newborn, and the wheelchair-bound teenager who’ll be living there really don’t have the room to breathe. That’d be a mistake.

Yes, in this case, the people are the content. It’s that same thinking. When creating a website, or any type of interactive application, you want to be sure to create the best user experience. Building a house for family that won’t fit them would create a poor living experience—it’s the same idea when building for the web. This is the kind of thing I like to keep in mind when I’m creating a custom project for my clients.

To anyone else who may be struggling with how to make this work for their clients, I say this: before you get carried away painting, or presenting, pretty pictures for your clients (we know clients love pretty pictures) take time to think about what the pictures, or designs, are helping to communicate. Don’t ignore your design instincts, just don’t let them take over the planning phase.

Tweet this:If you start by thinking about content, your product will be better in the end.

2 Comments

  1. […] to put limits on what you can create (I’m a creator, too—I’d hate for that to be done to me). I don’t want to make fill-in-the-blank boxes when I’m creating […]

  2. […] This is the single most important part of starting a new digital project. You need to know what your site is going to be used for so that you can appropriately accommodate the content. […]

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