Mobile First; not Mobile Only

This post is part of a series on Design for Engagement.

Engagement > Immediacy >


Omnipresence (Escher)
Why mobile first? …because it’s at the tip of your customer’s fingertips, right under their nose, were they are very likely to notice it. We pay more attention to opportunities and threats that are nearer to us in space for the reasons we pay more attention to threats and opportunities that are nearer to us in time. Evolution has hardwired the response into our brains.

mobile-only is not enough
King (maker of Candy Crush Saga) recently announced it was about to overtake Zynga (Farmville) in terms of daily active users. One of the key reasons credited for this success is that “you can start off playing it at your desktop on work through facebook, pick it up on your ipad at home, play it on your iphone or your android device while you’re on your compute. They allow you to play and pick up the same game across platforms." (CNBC 2013). In short, your game is where you are, close by. Note that, although mobile first is a good start, mobile only is not enough. If you need more convincing about the need for cross device propositions, see Google’s multi screen world report.

In addition to cross-device availability, there are several strategies to make propositions feel like they are physically closer. The simplest way is to make them bigger. Bigger objects appear closer. This is why headlines are big. To get attention, actionable elements, like buttons, should also be as large as possible (without damaging the overall design).

Ads at the top, where you 
look first
Another way to make propositions seem closer is to position important design elements where people are looking. Elements above the fold on a web page (the portion visible without scrolling) will get more attention than elements below the fold. Items at the top of a list are more likely to be selected than items lower down. Elements in the top left of a screen are more likely to be noticed than elements in the other corners (Nielsen 2006). “Buy” links that are closer to the product image are more likely to be clicked than those more distant. Eye tracking technology can give deeper insight into what parts of the screen people are looking at. Why not put “buy now” links into Google search results listings?

Bottom line

  • Mobile first, but not mobile only.
  • Make important design elements larger.
  • Place important elements where people are already looking (e.g., top of page, top of lists).

What do you think? How do you make your proposition more available? I'd appreciate your suggestions and thoughts. Leave a comment below. Please engage.

This post is part of a series on building customer engagement.

If your interests extend to theory and philosophy, please check out my other blog.


  1. Picking on 'TIME' and the comparison of the games (Candy Crush Saga and Farmville), the time things take has huge influence as well.

    - Quick achievements (Candy game) vs. long term planning and thinking (Farmville... for the sake of the example)

    - Searching in google is faster than looking for and opening a book. It's so fast that it can lead to search without thinking much about what do we want to find out... And if I'm in front of the computer I will use it instead of the mobile, but if I'm on the sofa, I'd rather use my mobile than coming to the computer.


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