Mobile first is when a product or service is provided primarily on smartphones rather than on the desktop or laptop. This isn’t just about web design but involves the whole customer journey including web sites, apps, leads, sales, analytics and support.

Old business used to have a separate team working on accessing a service or using a product via smartphones. Today, most ‘new business’ is primarily mobile based due changes in ways people use devices:

  • Smartphone sales overtook PC sales in 2012
  • Mobile internet usage surpassed desktop usage in 2016
  • More digital media time is now spent on mobile devices

In most cases the smartphone experience is considered to be the first and primary platform. Even Google is changing their search engine to use mobile-first indexing which means their search engine uses the mobile rather than desktop view of a website for ranking.

In terms of implemention mobile first implies use of Responsive Web Design (RWD) for web sites that automatically shift and re-size text and graphics depending on the screen size. Apps are used when they can provide a better user experience than can be provided for on a mobile web site.

It’s important to realise that mobile first is all encompassing. It includes all parts of the customer journey:

  • Where and how people learn about product or service
  • Where and how you sell your product/service
  • How you supply or provide the product/service
  • How you use a product/service
  • How you provide support

Mobile first is much more expensive to implement than plain old web sites. Also, conversion rates are lower on mobile which means you have to think harder how to retain mobile users. The poorer conversion rate is partly due to the smaller screens and shorter attention spans on mobile. While there’s little that can be done about this, it’s possible to add and promote features that allow users to save or share things for later when they are viewing on larger screens or have more time.

Also, mobile first isn’t for everyone. Many business to business (B2B) sectors still have more use on desktop/laptop than on mobile where buyers/users are nearly always at their desk. In such cases it’s sometimes possible to take a partial mobile first approach and only apply to the early ‘discover’ stage of the customer journey when they might be researching ideas outside the office.