Why My Mobile-First Company Launched a Desktop Version
Mobile first — that’s what everyone in tech is saying today. But mobile-first doesn’t have to mean mobile only. Believe it or not, many people use desktops at work, home and school. After all, 64 percent of Americans own smartphones. That’s about two-thirds of adults. But if the goal is true connection and dedicated accessibility, you have to ask yourself — how do you reach the other third? These days myself and many of my friends attack nearly every problem with a SoMoLo (Social Mobile Local) attitude. While developers can do nearly everything on phones, even code, they still can’t expect users to limit themselves to one piece of technology.
I launched Hornet because I loved LGBT people sharing stories and connecting across the globe — from Amman, Jordan, to Anchorage, Alaska. My inner gay geek wanted a platform that would open doors for my community. After four years and more than 7 million followers, the next step surprised me. My team and I challenged ourselves to reach as much as of that last third of digital users who may not be part of our mobile-first world — not to mention give the rest of cellphone junkies the chance to use a keyboard when they want.
That’s why Hornet will launch a desktop version in the U.S. starting Nov. 15. This is a milestone, not a step backward. Product leaders at mobile -first dating companies like Tinder, Happn, CMB and even Grindr all considered doing web — not just to pick up new users, but also to engage with them differently. But uncertainty over design and functionality lead mobile-first companies to drag their feet and tweak mobile products over building web. After all, these apps, and ours, were designed for the mobile-user experience using mobile location services. Web-dating was old-school and conjures up memories of Match.com version 1.0.
So we did the unhip thing. We launched our web beta in leading international markets. We found answers to those problems mobile-first companies were trying to solve — how to create an account without a smartphone, how to deal with location, how the design complements the mobile product. Eventually, our users in France, Brazil and Russia got behind the web beta’s longer messages, smoother photo sharing and other functions that come with a full web product.
That’s right, longer messages. You have a keyboard , so you can type more. But that isn’t the only thing. Big pictures are pleasant. We humans love smiles, eyes and admiring faces. When I am at work, typing away on my computer, I can toggle between Slack and spreadsheets while chatting to my friends on Hornet — all without having to pull out my phone.
However, this web launch is about so much more than the user experience. I believe that the web is about access, but that access isn’t always created equal. A restrictive data plan or poor service in a rural community should never be a reason for our users to lose touch. In fact, some 48 percent of smartphone-dependent Americans have had to cancel service because they couldn’t afford to keep their plans.
The digital divide is even more magnified in some international markets. In some parts of the world, trying to meet Mr. Right can be a life or death proposition when approached solely offline. Many web-only platforms died off because mobile replaced them, but we’re leaving many in our community behind. There’s a significant desktop market out there that depends on multiple devices to meet their needs — no matter how much money they make, no matter how long it takes a GPS locator to find them.
“Desktop -second design” is going to be a fun new frontier. Hornet web is here. The users love it. Dating apps are consolidating, and the press is paying a lot of attention on Love, Inc. right now. Wechat, Whatsapp and iMessage all released desktop editions. I have a hunch Tinder and Grindr will follow.
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