Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Soon, Mobile-First Will Not Be A Choice

I read Vibhu Norby’s healthy dose of reality about the difficulties of a mobile-first startup this morning.  (hat tip to Fred on the source; and not surprisingly, I totally agree with his commentary). After digesting an engaging read, I have to disagree with Vibhu and go with the crowd here: mobile-first is the path.

Vibhu makes a very compelling argument why it’s easier to build for the web (quicker, cheaper dev cycles, more iteration…), how onboarding a customer on the web is easier (active OAuth cookies, a full keyboard, no download gap…).  I completely agree with all of it.

But, in 3-5 years mobile-first will not be a choice.  It will be an IQ test.  By 2015, its predicted that global internet penetration will rise from 30% -> 60% worldwide.  And the next billion internet users will skip the PC generation of the web and will only know a mobile-delivered internet.  

And in developed markets, I don’t have to look much further than my own behavior.  When I have down time between meeting in my office or on the road, I often find myself sitting in a desk chair in front of my black-screened, sleeping laptop, consuming the web on my phone.  Despite a richer, full-featured web experience with a QWERTY force-feedback keyboard and 8X the screen real-estate sitting 18-inches from my hands, I can’t be bothered to turn it on because consuming (and now even creating) internet on my phone is simply a preferable experience.

The very expression “mobile-first” is indicative that we’re still in the early innings here.  People don’t say “website-first” when choosing between alternative distribution channels. This expression will fade away over time because it won’t be a choice.  It will simply be where the audience is.