Think twice about what to design first, Mobile or Web

It is not unusual to hear people say that they “can’t survive” without their mobile; phones are so embedded into our daily lives that the thought of being without them is, for some, a genuinely terrifying prospect. There are over 6.9B mobile subscriptions globally, which is equivalent to 95.5% of the world population. There are 1.5B subscribers in developed nations alone, with market demand being driven by China and India. Tablets sales are growing, but not as rapidly; sales in 2013 were approximately 195M. According to eMarketer, mobile media consumption will overtake use of PC in the US in 2014, and it is reported that today there are more people in the UK with three devices than just one.

Yet despite the prevalence of mobile devices, advertisers are only predicted to spend US $15B on mobile advertising in 2014, less than half their expenditure on PC advertising. This lackluster adoption in the mobile media advertising market has a direct correlation to what is happening in digital publishing, but mobile will soon be too big to ignore; if it isn’t already.

Publishing lagging behind in the mobile revolution
Digital advertisers and media publishers are creating IT echo systems that are capable of producing the highest quality content, at the lowest price, in the quickest time possible. However, in most cases, firms aren’t taking that bold step of starting from a clean slate and designing for mobile first.

In the article, “Going Viral on the Mobile Web”, 2012, Clement Mok gets credit for describing the potential for the internet to create a new economy, the smartphone economy. Mok is a designer, digital pioneer, software publisher / developer who started at Apple in the 80’s. He has a genuine passion for capturing the true essence of the user experience and the difficulties created in translating it into a meaningful, viable product.

With today’s advanced tools, we’re getting closer to being able to story board ideas and designs that are more in-keeping what people want. However, publishing seems to be laggard, with large publishers just taking websites and making them responsive; or taking manuscripts and converting them to be viewable in the latest e-Readers, Kindle, IBooks and the Nook.

Profiting from the smartphone economy
Publishers need to re-boot their approach to capture the largest opportunity facing them today: the smartphone economy. The smartphone economy will require that firms design for the millennial generation, or more broadly stated, users who grew up digital and are socially aware and active on the web. The millennial user has high expectations, whatever they see they want it to visually pleasing, relevant, fast and personalised for them. If it isn’t, you’ll see it in your Google Analytics or Adobe Test & Target analysis, as users flock in the wrong direction.

It’s amazing that Google purchased NEST for 3.2B, not to capture market-share, but to expand it machine to machine (M2M) consumer-friendly products for generations to come. That’s thinking bold, paying 10 times more than the revenue value for a company, just to get an engineering team. Another industry being impacted by the mobile phenomenon is the Healthcare industry. Smartphones, health applications, sensors, API’s are bringing mobile device and the mobile device experience front and center. It’s a market explosion or seismic proportions.

There is a tremendous opportunity for the publishing industry to take a bold step and think long term, just like Google in their purchase of NEST; the big question is, who will be bold enough to take that step.

Take the leap to mobile first
One of the best and most innovative books that I’ve read is E.O. Wilson’s ‘Life on Earth’. His book provides an interactive user experience that transcends the traditional text and imagery that is found in most books today that make it to Amazon or ITunes. Most books take the audio path or the text / images route, but most publishers don’t take the E.O. Wilson path because of the cost of producing the book. Why is that? Is it because they are thinking short-term trying to survive from the pressures from Amazon and self-publishers, or is it because they are trying to re-invent themselves and their brands? One of the ways for publishers to embrace the wave is to think mobile first and figure out how to transform their editorial processes to merge voice, text & image into a format that can be consumed by users in a smartphone, mobile format.

Mobile-first responsive web design is one of the key drivers that publishers need to embrace to capture more market-share. It is a combination of philosophies / strategies and essentially boils down to a combination of Web design best practices and Mobile design best practices. We’re getting closer and closer to designing the ultimate user experience. Publishers need to embrace mobile-first responsive web design and make sure that they extend their strategy across the landscape of interactive devices, mobile (phones, smartphones, tablets), highly specialised devices (eReaders, TV, internet), and traditional devices (desktops, laptops, netbooks) and other future devices.

The article was originally published on What’s New in Publishing on June 20, 2014 and is re-posted here by permission.

Michael Picard

Vice President - Education & World Wide Publishing, Virtusa. Michael has been a leader in the IT industry for the past 28 years and has implemented publishing solutions across the entire publishing spectrum, editorial, content management, mobility, social, rights management and managed services models. Michael is also an adjunct professor at Northeastern University.

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One Comments

  • Prime Outsourcing July 14, 2014

    Great write-up. Businesses should really consider taking their websites to the next level by designing it in a way that will allow it to easily adapt to different screen sizes and resolutions, which ultimately leads to quality user experience. The inability to do so could mean a lot of missed opportunities, especially in term of conversions and revenues.

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