Wroblewski was co-founder of Bagcheck, Chief Design Architect (VP) at Yahoo! Inc, and co-founder of the Interaction Design Association (IxDA) just to name a few so yeah…he knows his stuff.
The premise of the book is both simple and quite groundbreaking: you should design the mobile version of your website first. Yep- you out there, with your e-commerce store (with really cool t-shirts, btw) or the non-profit making a positive impact on the environment, or the media company targeted at women (age 18-35)- you should all design a mobile site. Now.
He has a number of valid points as to why. For one, the sheer mind-shattering growth of mobile.
But in addition to the sheer volume of mobile use that’s taking place, there’s another reason we should adopt mobile first thinking. Mobile web design is inherently limited.
And this, says Wroblewski, is a good thing.
You have a much smaller screen size and you have to take on the realities of spotty coverage (for now) and a user who’s prolly pretty distracted. Although it’s a myth that mobile is most often used outside of the home (84% of people use their mobile phone at home). They’re still often using a mobile device in ‘shorter bursts,’ while doing something else, forcing us to create web design that can, as Wrobleski says, work for “one eyeball and one thumb.”
Navigation takes a backseat to content. Yea!
Get rid of all those sub navs. Only what’s absolutely essential stays in.
Mobile requires information architects and UX folks work harder and get their user what he needs immediately. (This is in part because “urgency” is one of the key reasons people use their smartphones. And when you read the book you can see all the other “critical mobile behaviors.”)
But, isn’t that what every site should do anyway? Get us what we need right away?
Cut out all the extraneous fluff often used in traditional web design and build simpler, cleaner, more user-friendly websites.
You also need to everything you can to speed up load time. (Again. What you should be doing anyway for the desktop.)
Over and over, he explains how this ‘design under duress’ makes us better at design itself.
Wroblewski goes on to list the many advantages of designing for mobile: location detection, device orientation and of course -the many advantages of touch-enabled screens, which is both organic and offers the user many creative, intuitive means to interact with the web.
Although he does touch on native application or apps- Wroblewski seems to be pushing for adoption of a mobile web solution because- as he quotes Jason Grigsby, “Web links don’t open apps, they go to web pages.”
It’s true the browser is still inherently limited without (yet) access to hardware features such as the camera, audio etc (but this, I believe is changing and may be possible on the Android OS through HTML 5)
In my mind, designing for the browser makes sense as it decreases the current fragmentation you see that’s inherent to stand-alone native apps.
The issue of fragmentation is a big one and another blog post altogether. Many folks have been writing on it recently particularly after the announcement that Facebook, Microsoft and Mozilla (talk about strange bedfellows!) are forming a consortium to “clean up the mobile web” and address this issue of severe fragmentation.
In the meantime- I suggest you grab a copy of Mobile First. It covers a lot of ground, but is simply written and packed with powerful information, making it useful for everyone- from web designers to tech enthusiasts such as myself.
You’re gonna need it because soon-much sooner than you might expect- the mobile web just might be… the only web.