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David Skerrett Managing Partner Nimbletank

What are the rewards and reality of a mobile-first strategy?

Before we go into the meat of this question we have to define what it means to have a mobile-first strategy.

Let’s start with what strategy is defined by Google as “a plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim.” Breaking this down the important part is long-term. Strategy is a well thought out plan that takes into account potential changes and fluctuations likely to happen in the future and plan around them.

What about mobile first? Well this is both really easy and a little harder to explain. The easy is really easy, do you think about mobile first when coming up with the customer solutions? Harder is a little more complicated and is about what is the problem and what kind of mobile-first solution can you do. We can all think mobile-first but doing mobile first right involves being very tactical and deeply understanding your customer. Knowing how the user is going to use your product is important, is it at home on wifi or is it out and about? If out and about then you should be thinking about limiting the amount of rich imagery the user may have to download over a 3G or 4G signal.

Part of this full understanding also comes from knowing how people are using your product and my favourite image that describes this is below. A holistically understanding is exceptionally important as well because more and more data is showing that people are researching on mobile and completing the transaction on desktop. So for all of you thinking that desktop is your most important medium because most your transactions happen there you may want to check that.


Getting this right will massively change your business especially if you have an app, data shows that you have to make a good impression in the first 10mins on Android or your app could be un-installed (source kantar). Users are ruthless and in the end they don’t really care about you so you really need to make sure that you are solving their problems or making their life easier. You making money is the least of their worries, they want things easy and they want it now. 

A great example of this is Amazon and one click payment which is so simple when you do it I am sure in your head you are thinking “Is that it? Have I just paid for that?”. They looked at the data and found that people were buying lots of singular items so why take them to the basket when they don’t need to see it. Talking of data Amazon’s recommendation engine is thought to have increased revenue by 20-30% so that was a wise investment! 

In the end there are some simple steps to becoming mobile-first and that is to start by being user first! The main reason mobile has become so big is because that is where the users are, and guess what; in the future you may need to be smart glasses first.

Currently there are a lot of companies using the phrase mobile-first as more of a badge of honor and not really following through into action, it might be written on the wall, or in a set of objectives but it’s not become a behaviour or ingrained in company philosophy. You see this all over the place from how creative is presented, projecting mobile designs onto 8-foot wide displays, rather than showing it on device so you can preview the hit zones and sizing in context. CMS’s that don’t let you preview the mobile view. Being mobile-first doesn't mean having a totally separate site for both mobile and desktop, it means having a responsive or adaptive site that understands what device you are on and changes according to that. Whether that's mobile, tablet, desktop, wrist, or soon smart glasses.

Finally, we end on a quote from the chief executive at ASOS, one of our clients; “We have to be awesome on mobile”. 60% of their traffic is from mobile so they are doing something right. 

Our mobile-first checklist

  • Start with the user and understand their needs not yours
  • Make MVPs do at least one thing well and test it
  • Always use some form of tracking
  • Mobile isn’t an island, it’s a river: consider its role in the wider mix
  • Always think about mobile integration - don’t make it an afterthought
  • Don’t just review your designs on a monitor that's not how your customers are going to see it so why bother. Get them on a device and really know what it is going to look like.
  • Make mobile-first a philosophy through action