Luke Wroblewski on Mobile First

Image of video, complete with 'Play' arrow awkwardly placed on his face.

Dan Benjamin and Jeffrey Zeldman interview Luke Wroblewski about the evolving nature of the web as mobile devices start to dominate the stats of some sites (5 by 5: Episode 6: Mobile First, 51:37). They bounce around discussing issues from design to technology while Luke peppers the conversation with statistics about mobile use. Overall, the pitch is that designing for mobile platforms first helps circumvent some of the issues of having to rebuild a design to work for mobile (see his original article, Mobile First).

The next day Luke wrote up an article where he takes some of his points from the interview and expands on them (Mobile First Helps with Big Issues). One of the points from the interview that he expands on is the idea of how a limited screen size forces a developer to prune to the most necessary bits (navigation, functions, etc.).

When you are working with a 320×480 pixel screen (iPhone, Palm Pre, first generation Android phones), 80% of the screen space you had at 1024×768 is gone. […] Losing 80% of your screen space forces you to focus. You need to make sure that what stays on the screen is the most important set of features for your customers and your business.

Another point he expands on is the idea of making web sites appear and function the same in every browser. Web developers have struggled with that for years and it’s an expensive proposition for many organizations to support. He (and Zeldman bolsters it in the interview) argues that consumers are starting to realize that web sites can look different in different browsers, and in many cases should look different. This logic expands (in the interview) to address browsers like Internet Explorer 6 and other legacy platforms.

The onset of many networked consumer devices with different capabilities and limitations has begun to open a lot of people’s eyes to the fact that Web sites don’t have to look and act the same in every browser. In fact, they shouldn’t. Designing for mobile first establishes that up front.

In the interview, Luke points out that in 2009 over a million touchscreen devices were sold per day. He has a new post today with updated statistics on the mobile market (Data Monday: Mobile Market Update). Some of the other data points:

  • Worldwide mobile phone sales to end users totaled 314.7 million units in the first quarter of 2010, a 17 per cent increase from the same period in 2009, according to Gartner, Inc. Smarpthone sales to end users reached 54.3 million units, an increase of 48.7 per cent from the first quarter of 2009. (source)
  • Growth in the mobile devices market was driven by double-digit growth of smartphone sales in mature markets. Smartphones accounted for 17.3 per cent of all mobile handset sales in the first quarter of 2010, up from 13.6 per cent in the same period in 2009. (source)
  • As of Q1 2010, Nielsen data shows that 23% of mobile consumers now have a smartphone, up from just 16% in Q2 2009. Nationally, the iPhone’s still in second place, with a 28% market share compared to RIM’s 35% (Android has 9%; Windows Mobile has 19%). (source)
  • 14% of mobile subscribers have downloaded an app in the last 30 days. (source)
  • Facebook, Google Maps and Weather Channel are the most popular apps across smartphones. iPhones: Facebook (58%), iTunes (48%), Google Maps (47%) Android: Google Maps (67%), Facebook (50%), Weather Channel (38%) Blackberry: Facebook (51%), Google Maps (34%), Weather Channel (28%) (source)
  • Nearly 5 million consumers downloaded the new Skype iPhone app in four days. (source)
  • eBay’s iPhone app has been downloaded 10 million times, and the company expects $1.5 billion to $2 billion in transactions to be conducted using the mobile application this year. The eBay iPhone app was responsible for $600 million in volume last year. (source)

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