Alpha Software Blog

Mobile-First Development & Design: Make sure you are doing it right

Mobile-first development means designing an experience for mobile devices first before doing it for desktops or laptops. But going mobile-first isn’t as easy as it sounds.

Mobile-first development has long passed the realm of hype, and is paying off big-time for many companies. In its most recent first quarter earnings results, for example, PayPal reported its mobile payment volume increased 51% compared to the same period a year ago, and is now $32 billion. That’s 32% of all PayPal revenue. A statement from PayPal notes: “PayPal’s mobile-first approach to product development is driving increasing engagement across the platform.”

Mobile-first development means designing an experience for mobile devices first before doing it for desktops or laptops. But going mobile-first isn’t as easy as it sounds, and if you’re not careful, you can get it wrong.

How to Know If You're Doing Mobile First Design the Right Way

John Beale, Media Manager at Pernod Ricard, and managing director of the firm Eight Thinking, offers solid advice in a blog post on how to get mobile-first development right.

First, he recommends, design for a mobile platform that’s ubiquitous across your target audience. More often than not, he says, that means starting with a web site rather than a mobile app.

Once you’ve done that, don’t think that merely designing a “responsive” web site is the same as designing a mobile-first one. A responsive web site is one that scales and accommodates itself to different size screens, so it’s suitable for them all. But responsive design often simply hides elements on smaller screens, and doesn’t design primarily for mobile. So you need to go all in, and design for mobile devices first.

Next, he says, “Produce mobile-friendly content — Nobody wants to watch your 3-minute how-to video.” Producing mobile-friendly content also means using lower-quality videos, smaller images, and shorter articles and other content.

Now, make sure that you “enable all your other channels through mobile first.” That means features such as a click-to-call link, social sharing, and directions using a map interface. This keeps a mobile-first development approach moving forward properly.

Subscribe to the Alpha Software BlogFinally, he says, use the mobile phone as the identifier and contact for your customer. That means using SMS to contact them, for example, as well as other ways, including web logins.

Beale stops his mobile-first recommendations there, but we have another: Rather than taking a desktop apps and pushing it to mobile, consider using your mobile website -- or web app -- as the foundation for building future mobile apps with a mobile-first design. 

That’s precisely what you get with Alpha Anywhere: Write once, and deploy it everywhere. Many of our customers deploy a web app FIRST, then use what they learn to deploy a well-designed mobile app. 

Read how a leading manufacturer of heating, ventilation and air conditioning products built web and mobile apps in one month with Alpha Anywhere.

Watch our responsive app design webinar or read how our CTO approached mobile first needs with responsive app design and a related responsive app design website. For a different but related approach, read this blog on "offline-first" mobile app design and development.

Read Beale’s full blog.

Watch this webinar on responsive app design.

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About Author

Amy Groden-Morrison
Amy Groden-Morrison

Amy Groden-Morrison has served more than 15 years in marketing communications leadership roles at companies such as TIBCO Software, RSA Security and Ziff-Davis. Most recently she was responsible for developing marketing programs that helped achieve 30%+ annual growth rate for analytics products at a $1Bil, NASDAQ-listed business integration Software Company. Her past accomplishments include establishing the first co-branded technology program with CNN, launching an events company on the NYSE, rebranding a NASDAQ-listed company amid a crisis, and positioning and marketing a Boston-area startup for successful acquisition. Amy currently serves as a Healthbox Accelerator Program Mentor, Marketing Committee Lead for the MIT Enterprise Forum of Cambridge Launch Smart Clinics, and on the organizing team for Boston TechJam. She holds an MBA from Northeastern University.

The Alpha platform is the only unified mobile and web app development and deployment environment with distinct “no-code” and “low-code” components. Using the Alpha TransForm no-code product, business users and developers can take full advantage of all the capabilities of the smartphone to turn any form into a mobile app in minutes, and power users can add advanced app functionality with Alpha TransForm's built-in programming language. IT developers can use the Alpha Anywhere low-code environment to develop complex web or mobile business apps from scratch, integrate data with existing systems of record and workflows (including data collected via Alpha TransForm), and add additional security or authentication requirements to protect corporate data.