When To Go With a Mobile First Strategy

2 minute read

The mobile first strategy has been an emerging topic for the last several years. But is mobile first really the best strategy for your next product? Let’s examine the three big reasons for using a mobile first strategy and understand how it  may be a good, or bad, fit for your next product launch.

Going Mobile First for Business Validation

The best reason I have found for mobile first is to validate your business model. Using a mobile first strategy allows you to validate that your business model will 1) reach a specific audience, 2) engage them at a specific location or in a specific context and 3) cause them to take action. Since any product requires reaching an audience and causing them to take action, the mobile first strategy is best if you need them to take action away from their home or workplace. Typically, products that require location or an immediate cause-action response are best suited to this strategy.

Going Mobile First for Design

A new generation of designers are emerging with a focus on mobile first design. Their goal is to create the best customer experience by starting with the least common denominator of a mobile device and elegantly scaling up to a desktop resolution. While this is a great strategy for content-focused sites, it can often constrain the user who expects a richer experience on the desktop. It is important to understand and design products to offer features that are both relevant and easy-to-use for the device supported. If your primary customer usage patterns will be on the desktop, then focus your effort on designing the best desktop user experience before you move to mobile. The result will be a great user experience that targets the usage patterns expected on each device.

Going Mobile First for Traction

Many investors are recommending a mobile first strategy. A few are even using it as a filter before considering funding a startup. This can be a good thing if it forces a startup to consider how their product would be used in a pure mobile scenario (something they may not have considered previously). However, the downside is that a company’s business strategy can get derailed trying to appease potential VCs with a mobile product that dilutes or confuses the vision and/or business model of the startup. I’ve seen it happen and it isn’t pretty when it does. Go mobile first only if your business can gain traction and revenue through a mobile application, keeping in mind that the spending habits of mobile users are different than those on other devices. This also creates a better story for investors.

Making the Decision to Go Mobile First

Going mobile first has some advantages for some businesses. Making the decision for mobile first requires that you ask yourself:

  1. Will a mobile first strategy help you reach your customer pain points faster or at the right location and time?
  2. Will a mobile first strategy create a better customer experience than alternative devices?
  3. Will a mobile first strategy position your company with a market advantage that will accelerate revenue and traction?

Once you answer these questions, you will be on your way to a mobile first, or mobile next, strategy. Just remember that mobile is simply the combination of a device, a location, and an expectation. Make sure you are selecting the best device to focus on first for your product.