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Should we take a mobile-first approach to development?

More and more companies are placing emphasis on the idea of 'mobile first.' But what does it mean to take a mobile-first approach to development?

If you do any work in mobile, at some point someone will ask you: "Is this mobile first?" But what does that mean? And what are the major factors making it necessary to consider taking a mobile-first approach to application development?

Many companies slip up by not recognizing that mobile is the first platform to support. For the past three decades, the PC has dictated how to complete work, and it's hard to make the mental transition from PC-centric to mobile-centric. What's more: Large systems such as SAP, Oracle and Outlook have for decades invested in PC development. There are, however, strong arguments for taking a mobile-first approach, including price, "micro moments" and the millennial generation.


Price is the top driver leading to a mobile-first world. Many phone companies now provide programs to lease a phone effectively for 12 to 24 months. Even Apple has a program that lets customers upgrade their phone every year, with the price ranging from $15 to $40 per month for a premium Android or iOS device. Emerging markets, however, need to have smartphones that compete at the same price points as feature phones (anywhere under $100 for the whole device).

The real champion is Google's Android. Google's entry-level device is called Android One. The goal for Android One is to have Google design the phone and have manufacturers build the phone, taking R&D for design out of the build process in order to keep prices within the $60 to $80 range.

Micro moments

The second driver for the mobile-first approach is time. Each day we waste time: standing in line at the grocery store, waiting for your kids to come out of school, sitting on the bus, etc. What if you could do something during that time? Your phone now lets you check email, reply to a chat, play a game or pay a bill. These short pieces of time are called "micro moments," and we have dozens every day. A mobile-first approach lets you turn this "wasted time" into new points of customer engagement.


The final driver is the most important: Millennials. A whole generation, now in their 20s, grew up with the Internet and adopted smartphones as soon as they hit the market. The follow-up generation, Gen-Y, hardly knows a time without smartphones. These two groups adapt quickly to rapid change, and companies need to take a mobile-first approach that caters to this generation's expectations in order to breach this up-and-coming market.

Mobile first is a mindset that companies need to adopt. The PC is not dead, but it will not be the primary tool used to get work done. Tools that are always on, always connected and always providing apps that understand the current context of the request will dominate. We are living in a mobile world, and that means it's time to go mobile first.

Next Steps

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Why do you think your company needs to adopt a mobile-first approach to development?
Mobile-first approach is all well and good but making mobile ready for enterprise software you eed to consider performance. How fast would mobile web apps be when native apps are so much faster as there is not shared resources. But there is the problem of security where mobile web app code is reused web code and as we know most hackable. Mobile devices lack security so how do you protect sensitive data? What about exposing source code to a mobile network so developers can use their mobile devices to code standing in line at the grocery store or out and about? There are considerations which need to addressed from the development side of things but then testers need to be aware of how to test mobile ready software with regards to performance and security for mobile native apps vs mobile web apps or mobile hybrid apps. Testers need to learn architecture of these apps and can then better come up with tests for enterprise wide mobile apps. Design planning both for developers and testers will take time and companies should be prepared to give that time if they want to become mobile -ready for the enterprise.
In my opinion, no. After 30+ years I have seen very few people who do not do a majority of their work on a desktop or thin client. Even our tech support staff still uses the old desktop units. They do have 32 inch monitors to make monitoring easy. You just cannot do that effectively on a mobile device.