The phrase “mobile first” is tossed around quite a bit in technology circles and for good reason. Mobile devices (e.g. tablets, phones, etc.) are selling in ever greater numbers to ever more diverse people in more locations. For many people, a mobile device is now their primary device for accessing information via the internet and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.
It really is a continuum when you think about it. I’ll try to lay it out as my mind perceives it here:
- Mobile Only
- Mobile First
- Platform Parity
- Desktop First
- Desktop Only
For a long time we were at the Desktop Only side of things because, simply, desktops were the only things available. You didn’t need to worry about mobile devices because mobile devices didn’t exist.
Or at least not the extent we think of now.
We are now in a time where we have a multitude of different devices, form factors, and connection opportunities to be able to stratify products and services so that we can put them in the place they are most needed and will be the easiest to accomplish. There is no need to only support a single platform outside of resource constraints.
Also, don’t get me wrong, resource constraints are a huge issue.
However! In order to have the best experiences for your colleagues/users/customers you need to start asking the following question: where would this best be used? I’ll give an example.
Harvest is a wonderful web-based time-tracking and invoice-sending app. I’d dare to say they have the best interface for easily tracking invoices and time attached to work. I’ve used them a lot. They do have a mobile app but it is a focused mobile app (thinking specifically on iOS). You can’t do everything on the mobile app (yet), but you CAN track time and expenses attached to project.
Those are things you probably would want to be able to do while out and about with your iPhone.
It never needs to be an all-or-nothing endeavor. It doesn’t have to be mobile-only or desktop-only but you can pick and choose where tasks and services can best be used to provide the best and most flexible experience for everyone.
The proliferation of mobile devices isn’t killing the desktop or generalized computing but freeing generalized computing devices to be good at what they are good at … and allowing mobile devices to just be good at what they are good at.
There is going to be a lot of overlap, but also going to be unique use-cases as well. I don’t need picture-taking applications on my laptop or a full-blown IDE on my phone. Let’s stop trying to pit one-against-another and instead see what we can do when we let the constraints of different platforms guide us to unique and new decisions.