The Benefits of Mobile-first and Determining If It's Right for Your App

A mobile-first app approach means that you focus on the design for the app first, and not the website. If your app is different from your website, there really isn’t a question that you should take the mobile-first approach. However, if you provide services or will be offering an app that is similar to your website, then you will need to decide the best way to design your app.

tech
October 16, 2020
The Benefits of Mobile-first and Determining If It's Right for Your App

A mobile-first app approach means that you focus on the design for the app first, and not the website. If your app is different from your website, there really isn’t a question that you should take the mobile-first approach. However, if you provide services or will be offering an app that is similar to your website, then you will need to decide the best way to design your app.

What Mobile First Is

Luke Wroblewski first coined the term mobile back in 2009 as the trend to use mobile devices over desktop computers was really becoming apparent. In the beginning, mobile first referred to the website design because apps were not used as often as websites.

Because people increasingly use apps to complete tasks, the term has come to apply to apps as well. Companies often want their apps and websites to look and function in a similar way because that has largely come to be the user’s expectation.

The term itself just means that when you consider how you want to present yourself or your company, you consider how it will look and function on a mobile device instead of from a desktop or laptop. While laptops are mobile devices, apps and websites function the same way on them as they do on desktops. Mobile devices that are included for the mobile-first approach are the hand held devices.

Scalability

The reason that the mobile-first method of development has gained in popularity is because of how much more likely people are to use their mobile devices instead of a computer. With an increasing number of people using their mobile devices to shop and access services, for many businesses it makes more sense to start the development of both their website and apps from the mobile perspective.

If you develop an app for a desktop first, you will need to adjust everything so that it fits on a mobile device. Since apps and websites tend to look similar, this will create problems as you try to fit the logos, images, and all of the data on a smaller screen. It is much easier to scale up than to scale down.

It is also easier to establish something that is mobile friendly by starting from a mobile device. Since mobile devices are more limited – the screens are smaller, connectivity is less reliable, and the capacity is less – it ensures that you take the limitations into account from the beginning. If you design for a mobile device, you won’t need to come up with workarounds for functionality that is easier to offer on a desktop.

Narrower Focus and Better Stability

With more limitations, mobile devices help to narrow your focus. This means that you will start to better define what you want your app to do. The narrow focus helps to assess what is critical, meaning you are more likely to offer a better app since you aren’t trying to force your app to work on a platform that wasn’t really designed for it.

Since there is a different testing approach for an app than a website, you are more likely to find issues sooner. This will help you to better identify issues that will need to be addressed and functionality that may need to be postponed for a later release. This will help you to deliver a better quality app from the beginning.

Stability is important on a mobile device, especially since people are at the mercy of their cellphone providers. Home connections are typically more stable than cellphones and tablets. By developing the app to work with a less reliable signal, you will build in a better user experience.

Converting to a Desktop Environment

Once you’ve developed an app, it is much easier to keep the website development focused on similar content and offerings. You know that everything that worked well on the app will translate to a desktop. There isn’t an exact translation – you won’t be able to copy/paste the code and upload it since websites and apps use different programming languages. Still, you know that all of the functionality you can offer on a mobile device will also be workable on a website.

Is Mobile First Right for You?

With most people using their mobile devices to access websites and apps, the answer for the majority of businesses is "yes," the mobile-first approach is a good way of ensuring users have a better mobile app experience. The better the mobile experience, the better the reviews, and the more likely you will be to get positive app feedback. This often leads to more customers.