Mobile First: Is it Right for your Business?

It is 2015 and the world is going mobile. If your business has not yet accepted this, you may already be falling behind. The Internet has been a driving force for businesses for the past two decades, and will remain an integral part of it, but to ignore mobile is to lose out on a huge piece of the pie.

Consider for a moment, the fact that there are over 1.2 billion mobile users worldwide, and that in the U.S., 25 percent of those who access the Web do so exclusively through their mobile devices. The chart below indicates that we have already passed the point where mobile users have surpassed those on the desktop. Mobile is not just a trend — it is the future.

Growing in popularity is the notion of “mobile first,” which describes the concept of designing a website for a mobile device before designing for a larger screen like a desktop. When putting mobile first, there is greater attention paid toward layout and content, as well as greater consideration for what needs to appear on the small screen.

Why mobile first?

One rationalization behind mobile first is that it is better to build up than strip down.

These days, content does not just refer to text; it includes things like video and images. With such a small amount of real estate with which to work, carefully selecting what appears on the screen becomes necessary, because clutter or useless features can ruin the user interface (UI).

Creating for a small screen, which requires fewer features, and later adding content for desktop is a much more reasonable and logical method for developing your site than needing to whittle down the features your users have already gotten used to because they will not fit on a mobile device’s smaller screen.

UX for an app or mobile site needs to be carefully considered because of the lack of space, and a lot of thought is put into not only what appears on the screen, but how it appears on the screen. The last thing you want to do is confuse mobile UX for web UX. Standard web allows for more options, such as drop-down menus and the like, but once a lot of thought has already been put into the UX for mobile, it becomes easier to grow it out into a well-functioning website.

But is it right for you?

Knowing all this, companies need to consider whether this method is right for their business or not, and determine if it provides the best experience for their users and customers. While it might seem as if mobile first is the obvious way to go, particularly since it is currently so trendy, it is far more important to factor in your customers’ expectations and needs. Providing the best experience for your customers is substantially more important than hopping on the bandwagon.

A study was recently performed by Millward Brown Digital regarding mobile first and the banking industry. The results showed that users preferred to use their PCs and laptops for banking transactions rather than mobile devices, particularly when it required more than ten minutes, mainly because it is more comfortable to use a keyboard and there are fewer concerns with security. This was true across multiple generations, including millennials.

For banks to design for mobile first would be a waste of time and resources. In this case it would be best to primarily design for a standard website and only then work on the mobile site or app.

On the other side of the coin is a company like Uber, a mobile-app-based transportation network designed to help people get from place to place. Uber, used for on-the-go purposes, is far more likely to have users access their service from mobile devices than from home computers. While they have a fully functioning website (as well as a mobile site), it is the app that draws the most attention. Uber customers rely heavily on the app to accomplish what they need, and Uber is fully aware of this. The app is visually appealing, simple to use, and functional, just as it needs to be, because that is what their target audience needs it to be.

Know your business

It will depend on your vertical, but there are times mobile should come first, other times Web, and sometimes the efforts should be split down the middle. If you are considering going the mobile-first route, you need to take into account multiple considerations, such as the product/service you offer, industry, business goals, where your target audience is now, and where your target audience is headed. A company with a multi-channel or multi-product business may not benefit from going mobile first.

Optimal experience for your users and customers should be at the forefront of your decision. Will mobile help you achieve this goal? If focusing on the Web is right for you, do so, but keep in mind that mobile is expanding and that in time you may need to pay more attention to the mobile side of things. When you begin to experiment and expand your service across platforms, make sure you deliver consistent experiences.

Note: if you go for the mobile-first route, make sure you implement a visual app analytics solution for measuring and optimizing the user experience in your mobile app. Read more here.

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* This article was originally published on VentureBeat

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