Mobile First or User First: An Experience Design Philosophy

Mobile First or User First: An Experience Design Philosophy

Posted on December 13, 2016 Mary Merritt

Nobody can deny the fact that mobile users are growing in numbers. Smartphones are becoming more and more affordable by the day, opening up a larger pool of potential users who will be looking at your website from a small device. That raised the question: "Should we focus on mobile FIRST?" Well, let me give you my answer...and it comes in many parts.

My answer begins with this: Hopefully you are taking a USER FIRST approach before you come to the decision to go with a mobile first strategy. From an experience design standpoint, it makes perfect sense when the majority of your customers view your web properties from a mobile device. Just make sure your decision is heavily data-driven. Generally, your analytics and your content strategy should play a large role in your decision-making process. What are the desired customer behaviors? What should mobile customers see vs. what desktop users are seeing? Why? Who converts better? Which user converts better and what tactics can we use to make the other users convert better? Where do mobile customers drop off as opposed to desktop users?

For instance, there are still a lot of desktop users out there. We think it is downright silly to assume (without looking at analytical data) that these people are "less important" than mobile users. Sure, you might have 55% mobile users and 45% desktop users, but how many people in the mobile contingency convert? You should be exploring the different behavioral patterns that are driven by customer platform preference. A great example could be that mobile customers generally don't convert as well as desktop customers. Well, let's write a function into the mobile user experience that allows the user to email their shopping cart to themselves for later purchase. See where we're going with this?

Developing mobile first is a preference. However, on the other side of that statement, if the mobile content strategy is vastly different than your desktop content strategy for good reason, there could be a time when developing from small to large makes sense. For us, it's really much ado about nothing. As long as the end product is gorgeous, coded clean and very usable on a multitude of devices and operating systems...we tend to think it just doesn't matter. Feel differently? Please comment and educate us!

Mobile First makes sense when it makes sense, but it should be a big decision that comes after a hard look at who your audience actually is, and how they are interacting with your existing experience. The whole point of responsive and adaptive design is to take everyone and their tech preferences into account, right? So...why shouldn't it go both ways? In the end, it's all about supporting your valuable cusotmers and giving them the best, most digestible experience based their preferred technology vehicles.