As more and more consumers hold their “computer” in their hand rather than on their lap or use a venerable desktop version, the pressure on enterprises to improve/refine/perfect their active connection to these increasingly mobile consumers becomes ever more important. For many businesses, commerce happens in a much more real-time and immediate manner than ever before and the ability to access those mobile consumers and influence their purchase decisions require that their digital access points be built for mobile. Sadly, too few companies at this point are designing and developing business applications with the mobile interface as the primary design driver. Traditional PC-based application development still rules over a “mobile first” strategy.
A "mobile first" approach is where new websites and applications are designed for mobile devices first, instead of initially designed for laptops and desktops. Estimates suggest that by 2015, more people will access the Web via mobile devices than desktop computers. Opinions on the validity of a “mobile first” strategy vary, but there are some reasonably strong advocates running around.
“Google programmers are doing work on mobile applications first, because they are better apps and that's what top programmers want to develop.” – Eric Schmidt, Google Chairman
“We're just now starting to think about mobile first and desktop second for a lot of our products.” - Kate Aronowitz, Design Director Facebook
“We really need to shift now to start thinking about building mobile first. This is an even bigger shift than the PC revolution.” - Kevin Lynch, CTO Adobe
Still, every organization needs to assess what is the better process for engaging their key constituencies. One general school of thought is that if you don't design your products and services for what is rapidly becoming the dominant UI, you will not maximize the success of your business in the long run.
As iPhones and Androids have driven a tidal wave of technological ease and sophistication in smart phones and smart devices, the necessity of designing for mobile has become more acute. That is causing companies to consider adopting a mobile-first strategy to ensure that they capture mobile markets before going after the more traditional desktop community.
Into the breach a new approach, responsive web design (RWD), has arrived aimed at crafting sites to provide an optimal viewing experience—easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling—across a wide range of devices (from desktops to smart phones). The “philosophy” underpinning RWD is that designing for mobile first can not only open up new opportunities for growth, it can lead to a better overall user experience for a Web site or application.
Whether this all makes sense for your organization is a function of multiple components of your business model – who your customers are, the way you make money, and the channels that facilitate the most profitable engagement. If your key markets are increasingly seeking you out via the mobile platform, it may be time to alter your app development strategy.