Mobile-adapted is not Mobile-first

Since 2012, we have been delivering communication solutions to businesses of various sizes and industries.

We’ve had both a mobile-adapted solution and a true mobile-first one.

In this post, you can read our unfiltered thoughts on the “trend” that is mobile-first.

But first, what is mobile-first?

Lately, mobile-first has become popular. People in the industry are “first”, “changing the industry”, and so on.

Is this a half-truth?

With that said, I’m not here to make the same claims. But I dare say that we are mobile-first and not just mobile-adapted.

I’m taking a bold stance here, but not without backing up my statements.

Looking for inspiration to write this post, I jumped into my emission-free “Östermalms tractor” (inside joke), with the goal set to Norrköping for a chat with none other than Johan Åberg, our CPO and mobile-first guru.

As he opened the office door, I immediately asked: What does mobile-first mean to you?

At that moment, I realized I should have asked for a coffee first. Let’s pause Johan for a short coffee break.

Back to mobile-first.

According to Johan, mobile-first is a mindset that governs how one works with product development. It entails preparing everything technically with the right architecture and GUI structure in the app to function properly.

The foundation of a product (in our case, an app) needs to be designed with this in mind.

Trying to adopt mobile-first retroactively can be challenging, requiring many retrofits. It’s similar to trying to cure a severe disease with a bandage or when a child forcibly tries to fit the square block into the round hole (how hard can it be?).

What’s the difference between mobile-adapted and mobile-first? Just as mobile-first is a mindset, so is desktop-first.

The difference?

If development starts from a desktop version, it needs adaptation for mobile compatibility, often expected today as apps are supposed to function on mobile devices.

  • Mobile-first creates a user experience optimized for mobile users and scales seamlessly to larger screens.
  • Mobile adaptation occurs when a desktop version needs to work on a mobile, typically scaling down the app.

Retroactively adapting a product for mobile often leads to a limited and less intuitive product.

To sum that up, both will work on a mobile, but something developed mobile-first will likely provide a more satisfactory and better UE.

A mobile-adapted app often has limited functionality and, for many companies, lags in development compared to its desktop application.

Johan mentions that work has long stopped being a fixed location, and flexibility comes at a price. In this case, the price is high expectations since an app must offer full functionality on your mobile, not just on a computer.

When did we become mobile-first?

Lynes was officially launched in 2020. But long before that, Johan and David (our CTO) laid the foundation for todays lynes.

This was the same year when:

  • Archaeologists discover the oldest Roman Temple (6th C BC) at Sant’Omobono
  • The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon premieres on NBC
  • Germany beat host country Brazil with 7–1 in the World Cup
  • Pope Francis praised the internet, calling it a gift from God.

The year I’m talking about is, of course, 2014.

That’s when the mobile-first mindset was cemented as they began developing an app for business communication (another app, not lynes).

Fast forward to 2020 when we launched lynes, which is mobile-first, scales on all clients, and works seamlessly regardless of the device.

Wrapping up

As we leave the office in Norrköping, Johan’s last words to me before the glass door closes are:

“Who should really drive the development of mobile-first? Is it a marketing department or an IT department?”

I get back into the car, pondering Johan’s parting words.

  • Does he mean I shouldn’t write a blog post about this?
  • Is he alluding to something general in the industry?
  • Is it a dig at a colleague in the industry with a mobile-adapted solution whose marketing team discovered the term mobile-first?

Not quite sure. Some things remain a mystery, so Johan’s words will resonate forever, and it’s up to you and me to decide.

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Filip Flink

Självutnämnd digitalvetare som ser trender innan trenden själv ser det. Har även en förmåga att överdriva saker. Fast bara ibland.