Similar to the ubiquity of the HTML5 buzzword of 2011, I can’t even begin to count the amount of times I’ve heard the phrase mobile first over the past few months.
The core of the statement still has a sound foundation, but the way the industry and everything connected to the industry is shouting mobile first is starting to sit a bit uneasy with me. Is it right? I’m not so sure. Let’s explore it a bit.
I am guilty, like many others, of shouting very loudly about responsive design, device experiences, and RESS. They are all variations of a solution to the same problem: “How do we gracefully present content to users on any platform?“
Right now, the “platform” that the industry is incredibly focused on is mobile.
And so it should be, right? After all, mobile traffic is set to overtake desktop right about…well now really.
So what’s wrong with mobile first then? It’s the sentiment behind it that bothers me. The phrase is commonly combined with some form of smartphone or tablet reference and impliesthat smartphones and tablets are the number one priority. Obviously, it’d be foolish to argue against the meteoric rise of these devices, but I feel it’s a bit short-sighted.
I’m referring to embedded devices. These are devices in their infancy; smart TVs, smart appliances, smart cars, digital signage, and other interactive marketing collateral. They aren’t classified as mobile because…well…they don’t actually move (although you could make a very strong case that cars do move on occasion 😛).
It’s easy to neglect these, and even throw them into the mobile basket. Huge players like U.K.-based microprocessor business ARM recently fearlessly stated that there is 10 times the market potential of embedded devices compared to mobile.
Ten times. Big figure.
Think Future Friendly
What percentage of web content is ready to be digested through all these different platforms and devices? I’ll give you a hint, the number is probablyvery small. If you’re scared about the staggering amount of resolutions available on the Android platform, the future is going to be a dark and awful place. No doubt we have to make sure we think one step ahead for the next six months since the industry is moving very fast.
Mobile first is a marketing term that might be correct for right now, but it needs to evolve.
Stephanie Rieger probably said it the best: “simplest device first.”
We as an industry are not in an arm’s race to build spectacular mobile sites, we’re trying to take an approach that will hold up to what comes next. Mobile is already here, time to take a peek at the horizon.