If you've been reading anything about web experience management lately, you’ll have come across the phrase “mobile first” -- the process of designing, creating and delivering content with mobile device compatibility in mind.

The past three years have seen firms weigh up the relative benefits of mobile apps and mobile websites as they try to find the best way of meeting user requirements. One of the striking aspects of the mobile boom is the way it has encouraged content asset owners to think about web experience management in a way they never did when desktop sites were their only outlet.

Using mobile devices has changed the way users behave, and has placed experience at the heart of how they interact with brands -- and that makes any brand with a poor user experience extremely vulnerable. This is such a key topic at the moment that it has made it onto the agenda of a number of digital media and marketing events, including TFM&A.

From a content delivery perspective, the mobile first approach is a question of workflow: businesses want to meet the needs of smartphone, tablet and desktop users – but they don’t want to overburden their editors, designers and web developers.

Taking mobile as a starting point for content creation is an effective means of making sure your web content is compatible with all different screen sizes. At the same time, it makes it possible for content to be created in a single location and used across multiple devices -- streamlining workflow and reducing the gap between creating an idea and publishing it across all your channels.

Building for Mobile


From the perspective of content asset owners, the focus is on making sure that users can access the information they need when they need it and on their preferred device. And that means moving away from a content model that starts with a desktop site and strips it down, towards one that begins with the smallest device and works upwards.

News site Metro.co.uk is a great example of this approach -- they gave up smartphone and tablet apps altogether to develop a website where, in the words of their Head of Content Martin Ashplant, “anything that doesn't work on mobile doesn't get published.” This meant completely changing the priorities of the site to take into account user behavior, mobile device page load speeds and the way image use and advertising affects the user experience.

Beyond Design

Making mobile the starting point for your digital strategy might seem like a radical move if you aren’t a news provider but it makes sound business sense. Ashplant expands the thinking behind Metro’s decision on the paper’s blog:

We've unashamedly built this from a mobile-first point of view, sure in the knowledge that mobile users are making up an increasing proportion of our visitors -- and will soon be in the majority. “

The same is true for many organizations. Users haven’t stopped accessing content on their desktop or laptop devices, but many will make their first contact using a mobile device -- and whether they return for another look depends on the experience they have there.

Of course, making the “mobile first” approach work means taking it beyond the design phase and into the entire content lifecycle process. It means setting clear guidelines and parameters for the type of content that can make it on your site -- image sizes, use of Flash, content length -- and monitoring to ensure incompatible elements either don’t make it through, or are eliminated as soon as possible.

And in the same way that companies embracing the “mobile first” approach are looking to streamline workflow, they will be seeking to make this monitoring process as automated as possible, for maximum results.

Image courtesy of Digital Storm (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: To read more by Simon, check out Web Customer Experience Management: More Is Not Enough in 2012