Rethinking The Seductiveness Of Mobile-First

October 21 2013

There was a very interesting posting on TechCrunch by Semil Shah this morning entitled Rethinking the Seductiveness of Mobile-First. The artcile talks about some reasons why an application should be targeted at the web first, not mobile. Here are the high level points he makes:

  • Some markets make mobile-first simply unnecessary or unviable.
  • Relatively speaking, easier to recruit web developers versus mobile developers.
  • Faster cycles for iterations, testing, and moving toward product-market fit.
  • The web provides a strong foundation to build a brand and harness virality.
  • Mobile can be thought of as an extension, not the foundation.

What I find interesting about these points is that it sounds almost exactly like the old rich client vs. web discussion 10 years ago. For instance, if a market is not mobile viable, how viable is the web? Why not use a disconnected model like the Notes client?

Mobile-first is the future, across every vendor and technology. In 10 years, we won't even think of mobile as it's own segment, mobile will be first. What happens in 10 years is anyone's guess, but the idea of carrying a laptop and a tablet and a smartphone will probably morph into carrying a device that has different modes of work: home, work, in transit, etc.

2 Responses to “Rethinking The Seductiveness Of Mobile-First”

  1. 1) Ben Langhinrichs says:

    Probably out of my depth here, but it seems to me that one should be able to abstract a fair amount of the design for a mobile+web strategy. Going with either mobile-first or web-first seems to imply that the other will "happen later", but even more than in the rich client vs. web argument, a fair amount should be usable on both. Is that not true? Does it wind up being foolish designing for both at once? I'd be interested in what more experienced developers think.

    My focus is on data encapsulation these days, especially on-the-fly EPUB generation and on-the-fly JSON because both formats are easily viewed or consumed on both mobile and web. Not the same as app design, obviously, but the focus on a dual-purpose approach is what seems best to me.

  2. 2) Giulio Campobassi says:

    IBM's swing at Mobile through their "Mobile First" strategy which includes a dizzying array of products is primarily geared towards B2C.

    From the yellow-verse perspective (or is it blue now ?), developers are not geared towards consumer based systems. Developers, (and I mean Notes/Xpage developers) are firmly in the "business productivity" camp. So, all this noise from IBM is aimed at the CMO's, ie B2C. It's big and expensive, therefore the payoff naturally gravitates towards solutions that are B2C in nature where you have huge consumer or enterprise user bases.

    So, if you think of mobile as workplace extension, (ie workplace productivity), this is a completely different paradigm to this message.

    But we already know what Workplace mobility is called, BYOD. "Mobile First" is technically capable of delivering on BYOD, but it's a hard sell for IBM. Which is why IBM is not talking about this stage.

    BYOD is a rapidly evolving market, and my crystal ball says it won't take 10 years like other transformations from rich-client to web, perhaps less than 3 years(!?!?)

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