By: -

What is 'Mobile First' really about? October 5th, 2011

Mobile is a fast changing delivery channel, it is correct to suggest that it’s a key requirement for any digital service. Mobile is not the current zeitgeist it has real business value. Mobile optimisation is now part of search engine algorithms with Google stating that they reward advertisers that direct traffic to mobile optimised landing pages.

Often talked of is a ‘Mobile First’ design philosophy whereby sites are designed for a small screen and subsequently enhanced for the larger screen or desktop. This process is fine for site that are being design and reengineered from the ground up however, this is often a luxury with most site having been or are designed primarily for ‘Desktop First’.

So what can be achieved with the small budgets currently earmarked for mobile and the even smaller part of that for mobile web rather than mobile apps?

When considering sections of your current site(s) that seem fitting for mobile optimisation thinking Mobile First allows you to rethink your overall strategy in terms of growth (opportunities), constraints (focus) and capabilities (innovation). Each of these categories can help differentiate your site from the competition and engage with wider audiences.

Considering growth, this covers the proliferation of devices, which comes with the complexity of no two devices being equal. The capabilities of a 50 device differ greatly to those of one with a 350 price tag from the same manufacturer with the same OS installed. Growth also comes in audience and profitability with almost all real businesses seeing huge growth as a result of thoughtfully delivering to mobile devices. It’s not uncommon for clients to see a 300% growth in mobile usage once mobile optimisation techniques have been applied.

The constraint aspect of mobile delivery forces your business to refocus on what it is about - how it services and supports your audience. It’s often the opportunity to deliver (only) what your customers use without all the marketing and additional content that’s aim is to ‘support’ the original reason for your site to exist. An example here is the Amazon Fire that will include a tablet-optimised (read device optimised) shopping application, with simplified and streamlined pages but none of the clutter of the main website. That’s a huge statement from a company that already has arguably the most optimised online shopping experience.

Finally the capabilities of mobile allow further innovation outside the constraints of the desk based computer, the real value of location awareness, augmented reality and touch become feasible in the context of mobile devices.

Therefore a ‘Mobile First’ strategy provides an opportunity to refocus your digital platform that becomes the seed of thought that subsequently informs your entire digital strategy.

‘Mobile First’ is it a reality? I say yes.

As with all technology and industrial processes there are water shed moments. Digital and online is no different. Not many years ago cascading style sheets (CSS) were a concept talked of a lot, applied by some pioneers. Not until the launch of Wired magazines web site did the main stream proof of concept and case study create the tipping point for many to follow - Mobile First is no different.

Small sites and services managed by forward thinking developers and agile businesses have for a number of months proved the concept of Mobile First. The recent launch of The Boston Globes ( responsive design built upon the mobile first practice proves the concept and provides the water shed moment for others to follow, it may not be easy but it’s now a reality.

Found this interesting? share with others

comments powered by Disqus


Related Entries

I'm Adam Fellowes, helping teams build trust, inspire loyalty and improve digital product experiences, find out how...

Adam Fellowes contact and elsewhere