It’s time for companies to really start thinking mobile first and here’s why

Mobile first. This isn’t a trademarked saying like “100% pure beef” – yet – but it is something we are hearing more and more in the business world as companies grapple with how mobile fits into their organizations. Actually, this term is heard more from companies that are slowly realizing mobile isn’t just an add-on to what they are currently doing and requires a fresh approach to support their business objectives.

Take Google for example. They recently launched two search features for their web property that were originally developed for their mobile property – voice search and image queries (Google Goggles). Why is this so significant? Well, this is just the start of web-based usability enhancements based on the forced constraints found in mobile. The UI we are comfortable with in North America on the web doesn’t fit or work on mobile so it needs to be reinvented to work the way we do while on the go. This is what Google did with voice search and image recognition – they made it work on a small screen and brought it up to the big screen. Significant.

Another great example of a large innovative company diving into the mobile first concept is Apple and their most recent OS announcement, OS X Lion. All you have to do is look at the new interaction through gestures to see the influence mobile has had on their strategy. Most of the gestures come from the iPad experience – oh, and how about the fact that you download the new OS from the Mac AppStore. Significant.

I’m seeing this more and more now as I get close to 300 episodes on Take for example [email protected] (DoAT episode is here), a mobile search company that threw out what we all know about web search and the way it has been brought to mobile – essentially the same as web search but with an added location layer attached. Type in a search term in Google mobile and you it returns the standard list of links – perhaps what you want, perhaps not, but certainly not mobile first thinking.

[email protected] infers what you are looking for and delivers search results without a list of links. For example, if you happen to be doing a search for Green Lantern, [email protected] is smart enough to know you may be looking for the new movie, offers up reviews from IMDB, comics from Amazon, local theatres with show times and even photos tagged in Instagram – all without providing a bunch of links, all within the native HTML apps found on the web. Search from mobile up.

Another great example is a company based in the US called Fooducate. It is a mobile application that helps users understand the contents of the food they are eating and offers healthier alternatives based on a simple but concise algorithm. Hemi Weigngarten, the CEO and co-founder fully admits that without mobile this company wouldn’t exist. He’s also quick to point out that mobile is not the end game for his company, it is in fact the way they are entering the market and building their brand. While mobile is important now he is building his company from “mobile up” to be something greater and across multiple platforms – including mobile.

What do these three companies have in common? Each have attacked an existing problem or limitation with new thinking and built for the platform instead of forcing the product to fit the platform. We see this everyday in overly complex apps, cumbersome mobile web experiences and an apathy to do the hard work of asking a very simple question: “How can we do this better?”

Mobile is transformative but not if you don’t put the effort into it. Then it becomes a nuisance.

Spread the love – do you know of any great companies building mobile first? Share them in the comments!

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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