Mobile-only is the future of mobile-first

You have most likely heard about the term ‘mobile-first’.  Despite its popularity, it’s often misunderstood, misrepresented and much less achieved – especially in the enterprise software space. 

I wrote about it recently here.

Despite this, I predict its demise and eventual replacement with the new kid on the block: ‘mobile-only’. Two things I’ve recently noted:

  1. My wife threw out her laptop computer 3 years ago. She’s never used a laptop since and now exclusively uses her iPhone, which she uses multiple times per day (like most of us)
  2. My youngest child, 4, has no idea what a desktop or laptop computer is; she can of course use my mobile phone without a glitch.

We know the desktop computer is in decline. Desktop sales slump year after year and mobile web usage exceeded desktop back in 2016.

But why mobile-only? Won’t there always be desktop users? Uber is an example of a mobile-only app where, at least to start with, there was absolutely no desktop-component whatsoever. It was beyond mobile-first: the user experience was so optimized for mobile that desktop was not even conceived. Did you notice? It certainly doesn’t bother me.

A bit like digital cameras, desktop computers will be resigned to the specialist’s desk – those needing advanced computing or niche software. For the rest of us, mobile devices will be just fine. This is certainly the case for your casual employee and manager user. It’s also the case for HR professional users who don’t need specialist hardware or software and most of the time would use mobile if a better alternative was available.

At Applaud, we’re investing a lot into our mobile experience to make it as enjoyable and convenient as possible. I might just remove our own employees’ desktop computers a few days each month to test our mobile-only readiness. The better that mobile-first experience is, the more likely mobile-only becomes reality.

At least for now, desktop computing remains an essential part of work life for desk-based workers and mobile-only is a future. So next time you’re shopping around for mobile capabilities, you might want to double-check you’re not too hasty neglecting your desktop users…


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Published September 26, 2018 / by Applaud