Mobile First? Yes and No.

All year long you could hear them shouting from the rooftops: “Mobile first!”. 

Fred Wilson:

I’m starting to think a unifying vision for all apps should start with the mobile app, not the web app. And so it may also be mobile first web second in
designing web apps these days.

Mark Suster:

 I know that “Mobile First” has become engrained in developers minds. And that’s a good thing.

 In the last weeks, on the other hand, we have heard a different tune from some people:

Fred Wilson

Building an audience on mobile is a bitch.

And, in a really insightful and must-read contribution from Vibhu Norby:

The Android and iOS platform set us up to fail by attracting us with the veneer of users, but in reality you are going to fight harder for them than is worthwhile to your business. You certainly need a mobile app to serve your customers and compete, but it should only be part of your strategy and not the whole thing.

This is a critical discussion for anybody starting to design their roadmap and trying to get their priorities in order. Make sure you understand Vibhu’s arguments and explain how they apply to your product, business models, and target market.

My gut feeling would be to go web-first for on-boarding, administration, monetization. But design your client experience for a seamless mobile experience and don’t be afraid to deliver a simple, but elegant experience for the desktop as well. I think that we’ll see more and more simple, fast, and elegant desktop applications with seamless UI transitions to their mobile counterparts. These days I am impressed by applications such as Tweetdeck or Sparrow.

On the purely mobile side I am impressed by e.g. letterpress because of the sparse and beautiful tiled design that works amazingly well on the iPhone and feels like a breath of fresh air, especially when you see it side by side with the more traditional design of Apple Game Center. Which looks shockingly baroque in comparison.

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