Design for Mobile

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How important is mobile?
Even if you know… your clients may not.

Desktop vs. Mobile Web Traffic

StatCounter Global Mobile vs Desktop Web Traffic
Source: StatCounter

Mobile Share by Country

Mobile Use by Country
Source: We Are Social (Digital in 2017: Global Overview)

Rise of Smartphones

Smartphones are moving past the PC
Source: Mobile is eating the world, by Benedict Evans

Mobile is the New Norm

Mobile is the primary computing platform for many people.

See why people are embracing “mobile first” design?

Now That I Have Your Attention

Let’s Talk Design!


Mobile is affecting all aspects of design.

Logos are being designed & redesigned with apps & small screens in mind.

Example #1

USA Today Logo Redesign
  • Designer: Your new logo is a circle.
  • Client: What the £#*%!
    How much did I pay for that?

Why A Circle?

When you see the complete usage, it starts making sense.

USA Today’s redesign in-depth

Each “logo” could work as an app icon.

Example #2

Holiday Inn Logo Redesign

Doesn’t the H look like an app icon?

Responsive Web Design

  • Separate mobile & desktop sites have 2 versions of each page.
  • Responsive sites only need 1 version of each page.
    The layout will flex and change to adapt to different size screens (mobile, tablet, desktop, etc.).
  • Your designs must be flexible to work across many screen sizes. Elements may be next to each other on a desktop, but stacked on mobile.

Examples of Responsive Sites

How Are Designers To Handle Responsive Design?

  • Spend time on wireframes (with real content) before focusing on perfecting the visuals.
  • Expect more designer & developer collaboration.
  • Bring developers into the process earlier.
  • Move to working code mockups earlier. See what issues arise and how to handle them.
  • Need to learn code? Check out our Web Design Certificate or step-by-step Workbooks.

Design is More than a Pretty Face

Design is just as much about the experience, flow and performance of a site/app.

That’s why UX (User Experience) is important.

Examples of Mobile Navigation

If previewing on desktop, make the window narrow.

Mobile Design is Influencing Desktop Sites

Hamburger Icon
a dribbble by Vanessa Grass

Hamburger = Menu (Icon)

Some desktop sites are now using the hamburger. Should they?

Designing for Fingers & Small Screens

Finger Friendly

  • Remember the thumb’s natural reach is near the bottom.
  • Put content on top.
  • Keep controls near bottom.
  • Test on real devices. Looking at a screen doesn’t let you feel how it is to actually use your site/app.

Finger & Small Screen Friendly

  • Don’t crowd controls, keep enough space.
  • Hide extra features/controls. Reveal only when needed.
Google Maps

Creating Graphics

SVG for Websites

  • Use SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) for vector web graphics instead of PNG/GIF.
  • Great browser support.
  • Scale to any size without loss of quality.
  • Work on any resolution device.
  • Small file size, so they download fast.

Screen vs. Image Resolution

Working in Design Apps

Sketch, Illustrator, & Adobe XD

  • These are vector design apps, so design at 1x.
  • Export SVG for vector graphics.
  • Export 1x and 2x assets for pixel-based web graphics.
  • 1x design files appear the correct size and look great on both 1x and 2x displays.


  • Being a pixel-based app, Photoshop has unique challenges.
  • There are pros and cons to working in 1x or 2x files.

Working in Photoshop

1x Files

  • 1x files on a 1x screen appear the correct size.
    1x files on a 2x screen appear small, so zoom to 200%.

2x Files

  • 2x files on a 2x screen appear the correct size.
    2x files on a 1x screen appear large, so zoom to 50%.

Working in Photoshop

1x Files

  • Use smart objects as much as possible, so you’ll be able to export 2x versions.

2x Files

  • Scaling a 2x file by 50% (to get the 1x) may lead to half pixels. To prevent that, work in even pixels (2, 4, 6, etc.) for font size, stroke weight, width/height, etc.

Working in Photoshop

We recommend designing in 2x Photoshop files.

Read Designing Retina Web Graphics in Photoshop for a complete comparison and explanation of why.

Minimum Button Size

  • Try to maintain a minimum tappable area of 44pt x 44pt. (According to Apple’s iOS Human Interface Guidelines.)
  • In pixels that’s:
    1x (Low-Res): 44 pixels
    2x (High-Res/Retina): 88 pixels
  • The tappable area should be that size, but the visual (icon, text, etc.) does not have to fill that space.
44pts Minimum Tappable Element


  • Make sure fonts are licensed for use in websites or apps.
  • Preview on both 1x and 2x screens to avoid surprises (such as thin fonts displaying poorly on 1x screens).

Tools & Templates

Live Preview Your Design on a Mobile Device

Bootstrap Grid Templates

  • Photoshop: Uses Artboards
  • Sketch: Properly uses Sketch’s Layout & Ruler Guides

Interface Templates

Designing Mobile Apps

App Icons

Website Favicons



  • The path of least resistance is a single-column structure.
  • More complex layouts (such as multiple columns) are possible, but require more work to code.
  • Support for responsive layouts has improved greatly. Gmail (a long time holdout) finally supports media queries for most people.
Email on Apple Mail (Desktop) & iPhone

Learn to Build Responsive Emails

One Final Thought

Make your design special & exciting!

Designing for Excitement & Delight

You’re not designing for print or a static screen.
Use animation (and sound for apps).

Animation in Websites

Animation in Apps

Create a Memorable “Signature” Animation

Learn More

Photoshop for Web & UI
Adobe XD
Web Design Certificate
Mobile & Responsive Web Design
Responsive Email

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