Mobile-First Development: Make Sure You’re 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 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. 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, first 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.

Finally, 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 recommendations there, but we have another, and perhaps most important of all: Use your mobile web site as the foundation for building mobile apps. That way, you can write your code once, and deploy it everywhere: To the web, to iOS apps, Android apps, and Microsoft apps if you want.

That’s precisely what you get with Alpha Anywhere: Write once, and deploy it everywhere. For details about how to do that, click here.

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

To read Beale’s full blog, click here.