Rethinking your Mobile First strategy

Business, Development, Startups, UI/UX

Exactly what is “mobile first”?

It is a term and strategy that Luke Wroblewski coined which in a nutshell is about using the mobile web as a constraint to think about desktop web design and development decisions.

Now, when I say re-think your mobile first strategy I’m not saying that the above ‘mobile first’ is wrong. In contrast, what I’m actually saying is that your thinking/interpretation of ‘mobile first’ is wrong (and of course by ‘your’ I mean those other people that are doing it wrong, not you).

What’s the danger of “mobile first” thinking?

Many times when people begin to talk about utilizing this strategy, they start with picking a smartphone, and in most cases that’s an iPhone. However the problem with that is it actually causes you to isolate the ‘normal’ web from the ‘mobile’ web. Thus forcing a interpretation of ‘mobile’ as being on a iPhone like device, when in fact to different people this means an array of varying things. To some it may mean their smartphone, a tablet, their super manila-envelope thin laptop or their whole setup that they bring to Starbucks. By defining it your way, it tends to force the belief of false user context stereotypes and inevitably yields an incomplete experience for users.

Creating context stereotypes for mobile users such as they’re always in a hurry, on a slow connection and are only interested in a super quick interaction encourages you to develop websites to target those users. However, the fact is that most likely — if you haven’t tested your own users, they’re probably using their devices while watching TV. If these are indeed your users, this means they aren’t in a rush, and they’re most likely on a strong WiFi connection.  Below are a set of principals that many people tend to create based on false context stereotypes:

Mobile websites

  • Tends to assume people are already either a member or familiar with the site / product
  • If a mobile app is available, there’s constant bombardment to download the app
  • “View full website’ options area available because the mobile experience isn’t sufficient

Desktop websites

  • Welcoming to prospective and current users
  • Easily navigable, and a complete experience
  • Non forced presence for downloading mobile app for ‘convenience

(Experience 1st + Responsive Design) = Mobile First

Mobile First is about developing a better user experience, so you shouldn’t be trying to define what your definition of ‘mobile’ is on your users. Instead you should be willing and ready to adapt. To make it easier, you should instead probably be thinking of an Experience First strategy, so that this would help you to focus on the actual experience — regardless of the platform.

What else? What are some other considerations and possibly best cases for practicing mobile first/ experience first design?

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5 responses to "Rethinking your Mobile First strategy"

  1. Reply Obama's Responsive Design vs. Romney's Mobile Site (and More) September 13, 2012 07:37 am

    [...] hard.” It takes thinking and discussion. And not everyone agrees. In fact, one advisor says “experience first” is a better positioning of the “mobile first” mindset. My advice: Start the conversation. Learn your options. Prototype. Test. Keep talking. [...]

  2. Reply Daniel McClure January 30, 2013 08:41 am

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Mobile First. I’m currently researching mobile marketing opportunities for business and I would definitely agree that the way of thinking you outlined can limit a companies development. It’s almost as it some companies take a mobile first design approach and then think it is enough whilst forgetting about the potential of a fully developed strategy.

  3. Reply Brett Jankord – “You Keep Using That Word, I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means” January 30, 2013 17:29 pm

    [...] Rethinking Your Mobile First Strategy [...]

  4. Reply You Keep Using That Word, I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means | The White Space February 18, 2013 05:56 am

    [...] Rethinking Your Mobile First Strategy [...]

  5. Reply Olifantenpaadjes naar catalogi met user stories? | Toe Com St January 19, 2014 05:55 am

    [...] Overdreven? Wellicht. En toch: waarom zouden we ‘s niet wat vaker denken aan worst case scenario’s en onze goedbedoelde services tegen dat licht houden? In het VK hebben ze de lat wel degelijk gelegd op usability onder stress. Ik ben benieuwd wat hun ambitieuze oefening gaat opleveren later dit jaar. En welke weg Nederland richting 2017 zal afleggen. [...]

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About Vince Baskerville
Product Manager at Lithium, a co-founder of 2 startups: TripLingo and Glancely.
A 10+ year industry specialist & adrenaline junkie whom has traveled to 12 countries, and is known for creating highly intuitive-engaging digital products. Continue reading »
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