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Smart Companies are Going Mobile First


2736798185 19057c22eaFor a long time, developers looked at mobile as an afterthought, something to be done after the web site, but increasingly they see the value of a mobile-first approach as we see the proliferation of more and more mobile devices in the world.

As the number of mobile devices increases, it only makes sense to put mobile in the forefront as the key screen, but it's sometimes hard for organizations to see that. At a session at the recent Landmark’s Media Tech Summit in New York City, Ness Chief Innovation Officer, Neil Fox chaired a breakout discussion on mobile application development entitled "Mobile Development – Destiny or Distraction."   

According to Ness VP of Education, Publishing and Media Todd Sirrine who attended the session, it featured wide-ranging discussion of issues facing mobile developers with the concept of ‘mobile first’ development being a sea change shift in product development planning at the center." As Sirrine reported, "Mobile and Tablet design now sit at the forefront of product engineering discussions, rather than being an element that would be added later on."

And for good reason. Ars Technica recently reported that there are now 6 billion cell phone subscriptions in the world. While it's important to make the distinction between users and subscribers, and many people have more than one subscription, it illustrates just how fast mobile is growing. And as the price of smart phones drops, the number of phones will likely increase.

That means that you have to be thinking in terms of mobile delivery if you want to reach people on the device they are most likely to use. As people move away from desktop computers, that device is the smartphone. At a talk last week at the BoxWorks Conference, Clayton Christensen, author The Innovator's Dilemma, described the shift from Mainframes all the way to PCs and now to mobile, and that with each shift, it changed the way we delivered content and software to users. Today, as mobile devices continue to proliferate, and provide the ability to carry this computing power with us, it can't help but have an impact on the way developers build software. 

This was made clear at the Gilbane Conference last December when Ektron CMO Tom Wentworth gave a talk called Thinking Mobile First.  He described the 4 Fs of mobile maturity as Mobile Failure, Mobile Focus, Mobile Friendly and finally Mobile First. You have to ask yourself where you are on that continuum today and how you can get to mobile first soon.

4 fs of mobile maturity

Slide courtesy of Tom Wentworth. Used by permission.

If you are simply displaying your web site on the small screen and forcing your users to pinch and scroll to see anything on the page, you have a very long way to go. If you have gotten to the point of providing a mobile experience that's distinct from the web site, you are getting there. If you have optimized for mobile including building in support for touch gestures and leveraging the capabilities of the device such as geolocation and camera, you're where you need to be.

If you want an example of this, look at what ESPN is doing around its mobile first strategy.

Beyond that, analyze your company's mobile strategy and if you're not putting mobile front and center, check out the device trends and think about why not, because the sooner you concentrate on mobile, the more people you are going to be able to reach

 Photo Credit: TimShoesUntied on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.

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