Three Reasons a “Mobile First” Philosophy is Critical to Achieving Your Business Goals

Three Reasons a “Mobile First” Philosophy is Critical to Achieving Your Business Goals

Reader Comments (27)

  1. Great piece Josh. Among the many reasons why focusing on mobile is so important, I have always been most compelled by the “it forces you to focus on what’s important” angle. It’s so true. Designing and developing for the small screen compels you to remove anything that isn’t necessary. It’s a perspective you might not get designing for a bigger screen, but keeping it in mind – and using it to simplify the non-mobile experience – is likely to make the user’s experience on non-mobile devices simpler and better.

  2. Responsive is a very flawed concept as people use devices differently.

    On a desktop, you may be happy with a PDF white paper as your click through, on a mobile you’d probably prefer a short video, or a presentation you can simply flick through. On a desktop, it is easy to have multiple tabs and windows, on a mobile that may be a lot more difficult – so the flow is different.

    The power of your presentation is different by device – large high-impact graphics may be lost at small screen sizes and you have to make up for less screen space with more action to make an impact.

    How they are used is also different. If you are, for example, on a retailer’s site, you may be looking for the nearest outlet. By linking with GPS, the retailer can give that to the mobile browser as primary screen, complete with directions – but that’s much less useful on a desktop, where a printable address and map may be much more useful (or an e-commerce site with home delivery).

    Mobile sites have had a bad press as they have been so cut down, but Android is now powerful enough and screens are large enough for a less patronising experience.

    And don’t forget the Tablet. Many business users do their work research while relaxing with a tablet. The desktop may be their work screen (no sound, basic graphics), but the tablet is where they find out new ideas and go into buying and researching mode. A cut down mobile experience is likely to disappoint, yet they want the multi-media experience their work PC doesn’t have.

    Last point – people don’t use websites to learn about the company and the offer any more – they find out from friends instead. Boring “What We Do” sites are useless, on desktop, tablet or mobile.

      • I have to say I’ve had a good experience making my website responsive. My client base (ages 40+) may not be as mobile-oriented as the those in their 20’s and 30’s, but the direction is clearly going mobile when I see people looking deeply into their smartphone screens in trains, buses, ferries, and cafes. You article makes a significant point about the focus and simplicity inherent to viewing on a small screen. It’s less distracting and forces us to use our creativity more imaginatively because less space is like lower real estate inventory – values go up. I took a big gulp when I designed for mobile-readiness, but I’m glad I did, and I’m still open to improving it and responding to the technology changes brought about by wildly creative imaginations. (btw, Brian, how would I post a comment that’s not a reply? thanks!)

    • I’ve noticed many businesses are using a responsive design on their website and they use a separate mobile site also. They have a button on the mobile site that directs to the website. Using both methods to serve content makes sense. The mobile is used to take quick action so you don’t have to read through a bunch of fluff and the responsive is used to deliver the fluffy content.

      We’ve been using Genesis to develop responsive sites for mobile and it works great!

      Great article Josh. I live in a country where there’s a lot of poor people. Many live in tin sheds and barely scrape by day to day, but what’s surprising is that most of them have smartphones and many of them more have than one.
      Mobile has taken off in Central America like wildfire.

  3. I like how you point out that developing for mobile devices can often lead to more efficient desktop webpages. Organizing content and having the most critical aspects at the top of the page should help visitors to find what they want easily.

  4. Mobile is not just changing content, it is also changing business operations.

    Surveys Show…
    42% of customers with mobile access expect a response to their questions within 60 minutes.
    57% expect the response nights and weekends the same as daytime hours.

    New Standards for Business Hours
    If your mobile access customers have these expectations for your customer services, how are you going to meet them? How can you afford to “be open” on full-time basis? Remember, 76% of the mobile users said that if they have a bad mobile experience with business, they will not return. How can you afford not to be open to meet the new customer expectations?

    Mobile access is the next great small business paradigm shift.

  5. Nice one Josh- great article and also good follow up comments. I have to support Peter Johnston’s ‘Responsive is a flawed concept’ assumption.
    For our website we’ve been determined to ensure it is responsive across all technology but the key issue is how people use mobiles as well as their increased use. Each bit of web tech needs to be targeted according to consumer behaviour and preferences (such as, video vs Ebook vs podcast etc).
    Academics such as SmartInsight’s Dave Chaffey detail the latest stats about mobile usage and then encourage a tailored approach to reaching very specific audience segments, determined as a result of online market research. Danyl Bosomworth of Dave Chaffey’s SmartInsights blogging team gave the latest stats on 29 April 2013 at .
    @Business_Mapper we’d love to hear from people who’d like to share further evidence-based insights that will help online small businesses grow.

    • Lindsey,

      Responsive design was never intended to be the silver bullet that solves all of our content and display issues. What it does very well is to provide a solution that works fantastic for most people. When you couple the “mobile first” philosophy with responsive design you have a solution that works well for almost everyone.

      What so many people leave out and the reason I wrote the article is the concept of putting “mobile first.”

      And obviously you create your site and content to meet the needs of your audience. If responsive design doesn’t meet the needs of your particular audience then it doesn’t work for you but that doesn’t mean that “responsive design” is an overall flawed concept for everyone. Data collected so far actually shows that responsive design works very well for most sites.

      • Thanks for the feedback Josh.

        I take your point about responsive and mobile first working together for best results in some cases. We’ve shared your post on social to raise awareness amongst businesses.

        Hope it helps, Lindsey

  6. Josh – I’ve heard a lot of people talk about the importance of mobile, but you laid out the arguments very well. I made the decision to switch to Genesis and Generate theme about a year ago, and I did so in part because I knew my blog would work much better on a smartphone. I haven’t been disappointed – it’s been a vast improvement from my previous theme which had almost no responsive design.

  7. I couldn’t quite follow the Arnold Palmer metaphor, but did like the mobile discussion. I find myself consuming more and more content on mobile devices. If it doesn’t display properly, I move on to something that does. Sort of like Darwinism of the Internet…

  8. As much as we may not want it to, the mobile experience permeates our lives as no other technology has (I would posit). You definitely want your business to do the same. Great considerations, here.

  9. A lot of developers don’t seem to get it right. Its all about delivering the most important content that you put first on iPhone.

  10. Josh – nice post. There is no doubt that a “mobile first” approach calls for a focus on what’s most critical for performance and activity from “handheld” web visitors. What’s most critical, however, is understanding that “user experience” is as much about the contextual moment and situation that a visitor lands on one’s website, which can be initiated by an offline (“traditional”) ad or call-to-action.

    Knowing the context in which someone visits a web page requires brands to deliver more relevant, responsive and “reactive” web content. That’s where truly meaningful and personalized experiences drive greater conversions and actions.

  11. So True! Mobile isn’t an option like it was a few years ago. Many visitors are using mobile platforms and not developing for mobile can eliminate them from your audience.

  12. Thanks for the excellent article, Josh. At my company we find that for some clients responsive design is the answer (esp. if we are building a new site) but for so many businesses in our sphere developing a separate mobile website is a better, faster, and less costly solution, at least for the time being.

    A lot of clients think they need an app built, so I wrote an article on Mobile Website vs. Mobile App, Which is Best? if you care to read it, let me know your thoughts. Also, a lot of great data on this one, too: 10 Incredible Facts about Mobile that you Probably didn’t Know:

  13. You hit the nail on the head when you said “Mobile is the new future and (Present). People are definitely downloading rich content and people want it quick. Businesses have and will continue to find innovative ways to capitalize on this and jump on board!

  14. Great post and so true! I can see my site has fallen behind and I need to do some rework. Its absolutely true that smart phones are the way of the present and the future. Its like anything else, if there’s an easy way to do that how you’ll do it. So by making things difficult for my customers easier, I just driving them away.

  15. I’m really liking everything I hear about the mobile first philosophy. My next site will truly be done mobile first and I’m looking forward to it. Just out of curiosity, with so many of the mobile devices in use being apple products – 2x images and all the retina stuff is pretty important?

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