You often hear cloud vendors brag about their software being ‘mobile-first,’ a term meaning that the software was designed and built first and foremost on mobile. In practice, it usually means the vendor has retrofitted a mobile component in what is otherwise a desktop platform. This mobile component is often a subset of desktop functionalities and rushed into the app stores as a sales tick-in-the-box rather than a well thought out mobile-first user experience.
Harsh? Perhaps, but let’s not get misled. In my books, software is mobile-first if you answer yes to these two questions:
- Is the mobile app more feature-rich than desktop?
- Does an end-user prefer to use the mobile app even when they have easy access to a desktop computer?
Let me give you an example of mobile-first – Facebook. It certainly wasn’t mobile-first at the beginning. You may (or may not) remember using Facebook exclusively on desktop in its early days. It was much later in Facebook’s career when a mobile app came along. The initial app was good but not good enough to deter desktop users. After a lengthy and relentless continual-improvement program by Facebook, the mobile app eventual became the preferred platform. Now you’ll witness desk-based workers whipping out their phone to quickly read a Facebook update with the other hand still on their desktop keyboard. That’s mobile-first.
Here’s another example: Google Maps. The desktop app is not to be ignored and I do occasionally find myself defecting. But the mobile app is superior boasting GPS, built-in sat nav, blisteringly accurate traffic re-routing, walking, public transport, offline maps and of course the nearest pub. Google maps is most definitely mobile-first.
Here’s an example of something that’s not: everything else you use on a desktop computer that’s either not installed on your phone, or it’s on your phone but rarely used.
A mobile-first user experience has to be complete, preferred and command a majority user-base. I’d urge you to put this to the test next time you’re shopping around for a vendor solution.
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