Website or App

mobile first

I’ve offered a lot of advice about your company’s website: Building it on a content management system (CMS), using the principles of responsive design, providing compelling content, using calls to action (CTAs) to drive “conversions,” and measuring everything. But there’s another important consideration resulting from the explosion in smartphone ownership.

Remember, smartphones and other mobile devices outsell traditional computers (desktops and laptops) by an 11-to-1 ratio. In the near future, that ratio will likely approach 20-to-1. The problem with these mobile devices goes beyond just their small screens. The question to think about is this: “What does a person using a mobile device want or need?” The answer is likely quite different than if they’re visiting your website using a desktop machine or notebook computer.

Perhaps it’s time to design your website for mobile devices and then adapt your website for traditional computers, instead of vice versa. This philosophy is called “mobile first.”

Mobile first is not just about screen size. Put yourself into the mind of your mobile visitor. If they’re on your website using their smartphone, isn’t it more likely (than if using a desktop) that they’re interested in driving directions? How about videos? Those are fantastic on a small screen. What about finding your phone number?

Mobile first is not just about screen size. Put yourself into the mind of your mobile visitor. Click To Tweet

What else might they value given that they’re probably not in their office? Which calls to action might be more relevant in such situations? Mobile first thinking opens up countless new questions.

But hold the phone (pun intended). What percentage of the time does a typical smartphone user spend navigating in a browser vs. using other apps on the phone? The disappointing answer (at least for webmasters everywhere) is 10% and dropping. So, 90% of the time there’s literally zero probability that a smartphone user is visiting your website.

If we’re really thinking “mobile first,” perhaps we’ll conclude that our next investment shouldn’t be in buffing up our website but rather in building an app for our target audience instead. Radical thinking, I know.

Just this week I visited a website called Duolingo.com on my iPhone (side note: Duolingo was recently Apple’s App of the Year). The Duolingo website was a simple and beautiful mobile first design that had a small banner at the very top: Click here to install the Duolingo app instead. Now that’s the best of both worlds.


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