Is Mobile First a Good Thing? « Primacy | Blog Skip Navigation Back

Image Credit- Brad Frost (www.bradfrostweb.com)

(NOTE: We’re beginning a series of blog posts from Bryan Martin. Think of Bryan as our resident “ombudsman”. He’ll provide us with a good dose of common sense and a reality check on our life as marketers)

I’d like to start devoting some time to reigning in on some of the over-hyped technology out there: to give at least a common sense approach to adopting new methodologies, technologies, languages, etc.

And with that: let’s start with what got me on this kick in the first place – “Mobile First” design.

Mobile first – It’s been a term kicked around my office for a few months now.  And at first it sounds like a great idea: “How should this <insert project type here> act/feel/look on a tablet? Once that’s figured out – extend that out to both the phone and desktop.

I used to be a huge proponent of this idea until the idea struck me: If I start making sure that everything I do will look great on a tablet: I’ll start producing stuff that a) won’t work as well as it could on the desktop, and b) be doing so at the cost of 80-95% of the users who happen to be using desktops (the numbers depend on which study you’re looking at).

Please don’t mis-understand, I don’t want come off as some Luddite who wants to go back to the good old days when desktop computers ruled the earth like the dinosaurs they are.  I use my phone and tablet for casual computing more than I do the laptop.  But honestly: have any of you tried typing a blog post on a tablet?   I have: Google dropped the ball by even making the blogger app. This is one example.

What I suggest we actually do, is to look at the problem we have before us: whether it’s a complex web application, a commerce site, or just some brochure-ware site.  look at it.  Really look at it.  If it can be done with “Mobile-First” mentality, then go ahead but go full bore into it – last thing people want is a site that acts radically different on the mobile site vs. the actual site.  And for Pete’s sake use responsive design.  Yeah, the first project is a pain in the arse, but you’re going to have to do it eventually.  I’d suggest using some “compiled” css like SCSS or LESS to help get things right.  And defiantly use a framework like jQuery Mobile. I’d imagine most commerce sites and web comic sites (I’m looking at you, PvP) could fit into this just fine.

Past that:, if it really doesn’t make sense to even be using your application/site on a mobile platform (like Blogger) then don’t waste your resources doing so.

Now, for some sites it does “kinda-sorta” make sense – like the huge brochure-ware sites that most hospitals have become.  It’s a lot of static content, some forms of various complexity, and a very extensive hierarchical menu.  The more complicated forms might need a re-work beyond going responsive, and the menu – well, you’ll have to do what you have to do.  I’m not an IA – but I can say that any menu system I’ve seen would have to be completely blown apart and rebuilt.  And that’s not going to be easy.

Well, those are my 2 bits for today.

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Author: Bryan Martin

Bryan has been programming since he was eight years old, and programming professionally since he was 16. He's programmed everything from simple 3 page web sites for non-profit groups up to an advance proprietary database for the US Air Force and even electronics assembly robots. He's been creating web applications using the .Net platform since 2005, and has been using the Flex libraries, HTML5 and JQuery allowing him to create a richer user experience.


Published April 2012

Category Mobile

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