Have We Reached the Mobile-Only Fork In the Road?

Two roads diverged… One is mobile-first and the other is mobile only. Sorry, you have no choice, you simply cannot travel both.

Which do you choose?

The shift towards mobile-friendly content didn’t happen overnight. It’s been a gradual change, slowly playing out over the course of years.

Marketers, web developers, and business owners pushed harder towards mobile-centric content around April 2015 when Google announced the roll-out of a new mobile-friendly algorithm for search results. Of course, that wasn’t the first time Google put an emphasis on mobile platforms, but it was one of the most influential.

This shift was even given the ominous nickname, “Mobilegeddon”. The name derived from the fact that mobile content and mobile-friendly sites were given precedence in search results, effectively bumping a lot of desktop-only sites out of the spotlight.

But it’s not important just because Google says it is or favors it in SERPs. It’s also important because of the state of the world today.

Just look around you the next time you’re out in public. Pay attention to how many people are using their mobile phones not just to stay in touch but to engage with the world around them. Mobile content or “content on the go” allows them to get their feet wet, while still participating in their own lives.

As our world continues to change at a rapid pace, the model and scale for which you plan your digital transformation may become obsolete as only time will tell. In terms of usage and ownership, we know that many adults are already multi-device users. BYOD, telecommute, virtual events, it’s already here and prevalent too.

So, the trends of how many and what types of devices, or what people are doing on their devices may no longer be the metric, but rather the standard. We’re now seeing growth in not only mobile usage but mobile-only usage, with 15% of online adults (and counting) using the internet via no other device than mobile.

An Observation

As an attendee at a recent conference, I sat in a session, jotting down notes as per usual of top takeaways and some ideas for inspiration. But as I looked around, I realized the way people “take notes” has dramatically shifted. I would be willing to say 70% of the audience was using their mobile phones to take screenshots of the presentation slides on the big screen and jot down their notes if any.

This illustrates user behavior leaning more towards using their mobile devices as a crutch. They are comfortable with the fact their phone is likely always with them, as much as any information stored on it will also always be with them for a quick and easy reference when they need to access it. Did they even need their computers? Could a simple collaborative app been the key vehicle for their conference experience?

Screens Over Devices

Mobile usage now accounts for 65% of total digital media time according to ComScore. In other words, nearly everyone spends more than half their time browsing, shopping, working, and playing on their mobile device(s).

Whatever the case, mobile is a primary focus. The key then is to target “screens” not devices.

In the past, targeting screens meant designing experiences for smaller devices like phones and tablets, but also creating for larger screens like computer monitors. These days, however, there are a lot of other devices in the mix that have screens. You have wearables and smartwatches, smart TVs and appliances, and many others. A large quantity of these devices are outfitted with a working display, internet access, and even mobile app support.

The bottom line is, mobile is mobile, even for a display on an appliance, believe it or not. You still have to tailor the customer experience for the screen, for the user, for the action, for the ideal outcome.

Function Over Form

When it comes to your brand and businesses objectives, do you plan for a mobile-first mindset or a mobile-only mantra?

Mobile first and mobile only are vastly differing strategies.

Mobile first centers around creating a decent cross-platform experience. First, you build the mobile-friendly design meant to be browsed on smaller screen devices. Then, you pepper in enhancements and elements that are suitable for large screen devices, like desktop computers.

Mobile only, on the other hand, puts all emphasis on a mobile experience or app. This is primarily used for services or platforms that would better suit portable use.

What it all boils down to is function.

Ask yourself this. From screen to screen, are you able to impact and optimize the customer experience journey at each stage of the lifecycle? If your answer is yes, then you have the right idea.

Your customer experience initiatives should begin and end with mobile touchpoints, but whether they are mobile-only, only time will tell.