The Take #11: Mobile first is wrong

Can you believe we are still using words like “mobile first” in business? It’s true and it’s wrong

My name is Rob Woodbridge and this is The Take #11

I still hear those words everywhere – Mobile first – most recently in an article on Tech Crunch by Roger Lee , a general partner at Battery Ventures, a big deal in the VC world. The concept seems smart – mobile has to be central to all that you do. I think we can all agree on that right? Why else would you be listening to this? Right? It has taken some time and a lot of convincing but mobile is now a big part of the business conversation. I secretly think that mobile would be a part of the conversation in business today if not for the the fact every singly employee and every single customer are forcing the issue every single day. The problem is that some of the information that is being passed as de facto is dangerous and wrong. Like “mobile first” for example…

Stats aside, we ALL know that people use phones and people use tablets. Ok? Let’s get over that for a moment. The question most businesses need to answer is HOW and WHEN and WHY do they use them. Phones aren’t destinations, they are contextual triage devices. Alerts and notifications, when done right, make us smarter and more action-focused when we are using our devices. This kind of thinking needs to be a tenant in business strategy but we should never start with the HOW first. We should never start with the idea of notifications first or the idea of an app first or the idea of a mobile website first. Why? Those are all OUTCOMES of a broader, bigger, more important strategy. Your business strategy. For most of you, your business is set and you are looking for a way to get mobile into it and build relationships with your existing customers. Starting with the tech is wrong. Starting with the purpose and then applying a layer of mobile around it to support that purpose. Right.

So when I read articles published by big wigs on influential sites saying things like “If you’re building an enterprise-software company, mobile must be core to your product strategy; it can’t be an afterthought or add-on. And you must build an elegant, easy-to-use mobile app, because employees and consumers far prefer mobile apps to mobile websites. U.S. smartphone users spend 86 percent of their time on mobile apps, vs. 14 percent of their time using mobile browsers.” Seriously? Did they just prescribe an app without context? This drives me crazy and is bad bad bad advice.

Mobile means so much to so many but it will be different based on YOUR business. Don’t take a broad approach with your mobile strategy. If, at the end of deep strategic thinking, an app is necessary, build an app. Don’t do it first and figure out a way to make it fit. It won’t.

Mobile can make or break your company so give it the thought it deserves. Listen to your customers and meet them where they want to be met. Don’t force something on them that satisfies your mobile requirements but not theirs.

My name is Rob Woodbridge and this is The Take.

About the author

Rob Woodbridge

I'm Rob, the founder of and I've spent 14 years immersed in the mobile and pervasive computing world. During this great time I've helped some of the most innovative companies grow their business through mobile. If you are in need of a mobile business advisor or coach, connect with me here to get things rolling.

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