The ‘mobile first’ revolution

I had the great opportunity to attend Luke Wroblewski’s workshop on ‘Multi-device web design’ at the Content Strategy forum conference in beautiful Cape Town, South Africa.

I was intrigued by the term ‘mobile first’.

What does ‘mobile first’ mean?
Often when developing a web application/site, one actually develops the application for the desktop/PC first. This is standard practice and very often the mobile application is developed by screen scraping.

Luke recommends doing just the opposite and he coined the term ‘mobile first’.

Why do it this way?

  • Growth – Opportunity

The number of mobile devices is growing at a very fast pace, every day. There is huge opportunity here. Also more and more people are using it as the primary device to access the internet, more than their personal computer. This is especially relevant in developing economies like Africa.

  • Constraints – Focus

There are some real constraints when designing applications on mobile devices e.g. screen space, bandwidth. This means that these applications have to be simple and what you display on the screens has to be very carefully selected. Content is key. This is good for any type of application and brings a lot of focus to the right things.

  • Capabilities – Innovation

Mobile devices come with a whole set of new capabilities that are not available on a desktop, a primary example is location based services. Going with a mobile first strategy allows one to make use of these capabilities.

I see lots of sense in this approach, and can especially see its applicability in enterprise applications :

  • Forrester has predicted business spending on mobile projects will grow 100% by 2015:

http://gigaom.com/2012/02/13/preparing-for-a-mobile-first-world/

Needless to say, there are massive opportunities here.

  • Enterprise applications are way too clunky and we are moving into a beautification era. We need to aim for simpler interfaces and mobile first strategy will enforce this. I have seen way too many of these: forms with unnecessary fields, tables with unnecessary columns, screens with way too much functionality.

Going with a ‘mobile first’ strategy will force everyone to think about what is really relevant.

And the phrase of the day for me was  ‘serve less crap’, everything becomes simpIer then, I couldn’t agree more. And the next time you are involved with a web application, ask, why not ‘mobile first’?

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