The rapid pace of smart phone adoption is forcing exciting changes in the web design world. With smart phone sales to outpace PCs in the next year, and total web usage to shift from PC to mobile by 2013, designers must consider the unique aspects of mobile design and functionality, and if considered before the desktop design, many smart folks beleive this will also improve the desktop experience. The web titans at Google, Adobe, Facebook and Apple all conclude the same, and the guy who seems to be articulating the issue the best is Luke Wroblewski aka LukeW.
His presentation to LinkedIn is now required viewing at Propeller and I'm sure in most web shops. Here he lays it all out and gets into valuable detail for us to absorb and consider.
For some background, Luke wrote on this same topic a year ago. In his Nov 3, 2009 post Mobile First, he simply states "More often than not, the mobile experience for a Web application or site is designed and built after the PC version is complete. Here's three reasons why Web applications should be designed for mobile first instead." His three reasons with my commentary:
1. Mobile is Exploding
We don't even need to see the numbers to know this is true. Its huge and coming on very very fast.
2. Mobile Forces you to FOCUS
In the early days of 640 x 480 and 56K, we had restraints that forced us to carefully consider the design and functional use of every pixel on the screen. Today, it seems that websites have become the dumping ground for everything includng the kitchen sink. The space and bandwidth seem to be infinite, and as a result we have a lot of unfocused cluttered websites. Mobile and the MobileFirst mantra provide an opportunity for some much needed house cleaning!
3. Moblie Extends your Capabilities
As Joe Hewitt, the designer of the Facebook iPhone app claimed: "My goal was initially to make a mobile companion, but became convinced it was possible to create a version of Facebook that was actually better than the website". This is the opportunity that these divices deliver. With funcitonality such as GPS/Geo location, compas, accelerometer, camera, multi touch screens, etc - the smart phone offers very powerful features that the desktop lacks.
Luke recently posted a followup: Mobile First, One Year Later that includes some followup points and reference links that are worth checking out.
The question this poses to me and my team now is whether we build seperate mobile and desktop sites or develop just one to serve both. I think the growing movement behing Mobile First beleives the later, however I don't think this was originally the goal or should be the goal. I think the point is that if we consider Mobile First, we will have a solid understanding of the focus... the priorities... that will inform and ensure a better desktop user experience. In the desktop design though, we should consider flexible layouts via progressive enhancement techniques to enable the mobile user to still consume the content.
Some current good stuff I've found related to mobile and flexible design:
- Luke W's Website
- Google's New Rule: Mobile First | PC Magazine | 2.26.10
- Feedback from the field: Implimenting Mobile First, and calling it now a Revolution
- The Future of Web Design is Now | Helloewy | Ryan Barresi : HTML5, progressive enhancement, responsive design
- A Study of Trends in Moblie Design | Smashing Magazine | Alexander Dawson