Mobile first?

Hi everyone :slight_smile:

This is about Digital Service Standard, criteria 6 - consistent and responsive design. While it is great and should be always followed, here are some comments:

  1. In my experience mobile first design strategy is easy for websites and simple applications, but when it comes to designing complex government applications / services where there is loads of content /questions / tables etc. sometimes it is easier to go responsive, rather than mobile first. I have seen some examples where mobile first approach leads to lot of juggling / navigation issues as often things are buried under icons / UI elements.

  2. Mobile first should not be mobile only. I sometimes see same designs suggested for mobile and desktop - with the same hamburger icon and UI elements being used on desktop. Shouldn’t there be a desktop advantage?

  3. Any similar experiences from anyone here?

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Hi Bree,

My interpretation of ‘mobile first’ has always been design responsive, but start with mobile. Use desktop features where possible to improve user experience but always start with the lowest form factor and work / enhance up from there.

I think your right in your thinking here. Don’t confuse mobile first not being compatible with responsive; mobile first is more a stage in design rather than an overall approach (in my experience anyway).

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Thanks James :).

Hi everyone.

I’ve been thinking about where the boundaries are when we talk about consistent and responsive design within the Human Centred Design field.

Thinking of services as ending with how they display on web/tablet/mobile ignores the full human experience - for example, how will the call centre staff be helped to explain new services? did we design a chatbot/vocal client experience? does the service have physical touch-points (service centres, hospitals, etc) - can we build a dashboard for front line staff?

In regards to your points Bree, one website on many devices works well for government services, maintaining a consistent source of truth is easier this way too.

To your 2nd point - I agree, there’s some silly patterns out there. the Aus Gov Design System is pretty good though… Real estate is valuable - and there’s no reason why people don’t optimise for each experience…

Also, understanding how someone will use your service can give you the opportunity to design an experience that takes advantage of different devices - maybe a person will start their journey on their laptop, but finish it on their phone? We can design a user journey that facilitates natural patterns…

Point 3 - yep. Although, ‘best practice’ is something we can all help spread :wink:


Thanks for the Australian Government Design System reference, @petegray.

We’ll happily take feedback on the Design Principles, which make mention of consistency over uniformity (not just across browsers, but also across devices).

That said, there are some services leveraging the design system that have a very low (single digit percentages) of their users accessing via mobile devices - Digital Marketplace would be one such example.

It’s not something I’d regard as a “mobile first” service. The text-heavy inputs required from buyers meant that I’ve only ever used it on desktop devices myself. However, by using a responsive, accessible design system, it hasn’t had to work too hard to support users on mobile devices, supporting scenarios where are users are looking up an existing opportunity or quickly browsing a seller catalogue on the go.