Mobile Devices; Are You Ready?

The past few weeks in Singapore has seen a strong line-up of event, attracting the whose who of technology, mobile devices, startups and banking to the country. It's been great to catch-up with everyone. But an insightful pattern is emerging in everyone's questions... how can we prepare for Isaac? The pure digital native. For those that have seen me speak before, I illustrate the case for building services that are lifestyle integrated, anyways available and available anywhere. Which speaks to laptops, tablets and smartphones. Mobility is obviously a very big part of the present and future web, and if your business is not utilizing (or preparing to utilize) a strategy that works, you can expect a swift demise into obscurity. Developers, designers and content creators are already realizing the power of a “mobile first” philosophy.


  • mobile first taps into current growth... and prepares you for the future

One of my favorirate reads is Mobile First, by Luke Wroblewski. Who also recently wrote up an astonishing comparison on his site.

On an average day (in Feb 2012), approximately 371,000 babies are born, while over half a million iOS devices are sold. And … 700,000 Android devices are activated. 200,000 Nokia devices are used for the first time and 143,000 Blackberry smartphones make their way into a new user’s hands.

This brings the total of smartphones entering the World per day to about 1.45M devices, compared to 317,124 human births.

And that’s not all… Other statistics in his book are even more convincing for developing a mobile first philosophy, because they show that not only are people going to buy a mobile device, but audiences are actually interacting with web sites through them. People are not playing Angry Birds and using Facebook all the time. They’re visiting content-rich websites.

Yelp, the popular user-generated review service sees only 7% of their total audience uses their mobile device.  A data point that on the surface seems to suggest weak smartphone involvement. But if you delve a little deeper, you find that that those 7% are responsible for 35% of their all of their searches across all of their products. Mobile users punch well above their weight in engagement.

So, it's entirely possible that your service will be swallowed up by the new generation. With or without your involvement... It might be time to ride the wave.

  • focusing on what’s important

Even though the mobile landscape has evolved immensely the past few years, the environment in which it exists still holds many constraints as to what’s possible in development and design. But like any good designer will tell you, constraints foster creativity and problem solving.

In his book, Wroblewski identifies several constraints that are currently in place for mobile devices that can actually enhance a user’s experience… including screen size and the performance of the mobile device. The smaller screen sizes available to a mobile devices force designers to eliminate the irrelevant and unhelpful aspects of their design. Too often, companies want to fill up every available pixel and ultimately end up with a cluttered site that’s hard to navigate and use.

When developing for a mobile device, the loss of screen real estate forces the design and development teams to focus on what’s really important because there isn’t room for any element that has questionable value.

If large images and robust javascript libraries are taken out of the equation, we’re not forced to compromise, but to innovate and focus on what’s truly important.

  • mobile first philosophy allows use of new capabilities

Wroblewski makes his final point by stating:

The natural constraints of mobile devices, networks, and usage patterns help focus and simplify mobile experiences. But designing isn’t just about embracing limitations — it’s also about extending what you can do.

People use their mobile devices everywhere. Because of that, new opportunities are available to meet the needs of users. A prime example is location based services. A mobile device can more accurately pinpoint a user’s exact location than a desktop computer, and can be used to deliver relevant information about their specific location or surroundings.

Along with using new capabilities available by today's technology, a mobile device first philosophy allows you to position yourself to be on the cutting edge of upcoming trends that will be used in mobile devices, like NFC, contextual awareness, and whatever other new tools coming down the road that haven’t even been dreamed up yet.

Luke's case is fairly strong for thinking about mobile devices first, justifiably. So ask yourself, if you could re-imagine your service with Mobile as the First priority, what would it look like?