Mobile First: A Book Review

Mobile First Book

A few weeks ago I finished this book. The book was written in 2011 by Luke Wroblewski who is an influential designer (if you don’t believe me check his twitter account with 150K followers) and although by technology standards it should be outdated but I found it quite relevant.

The first chapter talks about why readers should care about mobile. 5 years after its publication I don’t think anyone need more data and proof on why mobile is important. In Chapter 2 he talks about mobile limitation and why it’s important to design with these limitations in mind. For example, it is true that despite bigger screens, cheaper data plans and longer battery life, people still find themselves in situations when they find their networks unreliable, their battery life fledgling and their screen too small compared to standard monitors. All of these limitations force product designers to focus on what customers need and this is actually a good thing:

“When you consider the amount of useless navigation, content fluff, and irrelevant promotions that litter a typical web experience, you realize why the mobile diet can be good for both businesses and customers. Once people use the mobile version, it’s not uncommon for them to pine for the desktop version to be that simple.”

Another factor to keep in mind is web performance. According to eMarketer, more people are relying on their mobile devices for digital access. This year in US alone, nearly one in 10 users exclusively go online through mobile and that number will continue to rise through the forecast period. And people dislike nothing more other than slow pages to load so anything can be done to increase performance on mobile should be done. At the highest level this means sending less stuff and using available browser and server technologies to speed up page load.

He then briefly compares the native app vs mobile web and explain where each one is appropriate to use. This debate has been around for a long time but I find recommending one approach against another pointless. Because the answer is both!!Based on Forrester survey, majority of mobile users use mobile web sites for browsing and searching but they spent most of their times on native apps! So how can we explain this paradox?

It turns out mobile web works better for consistency of experience across devices and for building a wide audience, but  mobile apps shine in creating a rich and engaging experience by leveraging more device specific capabilities like location and sensor data. Look at this excellent article to get even a better picture on why apps and the Web are both here to stay.

I learned that mobile usage generally consists of a the following interaction types. These behaviors often determine how your mobile experience can be structured and organized to meet people’s needs:
•    Lookup/Find: I need an answer to something now—frequently related to my current location in the world.
•    Explore/Play: I have some time to kill and just want a few idle time distractions.
•    Check In/Status: Something important to me keeps changing or updating and I want to stay on top of it.
•    Edit/Create: I need to get something done now that can’t wait

I also learned about Natural User Interface and some key concepts about organizing and navigating contents on mobile screens and areas suitable for placing common action buttons and what the best place to put ‘delete’ button so user doesn’t mistakenly hit it.

Some of the concepts covered in the book like responsive design and touch gestures are now commonplace practices and screenshots of websites like flickr, yahoo and basecamp are out of date but none of really matter, I really enjoyed this book 🙂

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