Using Mobile Devices to Reinvent the Web #drupalcon

4 minute read
Rikki Endsley avatar

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Luke Wroblewski gave the third and final DrupalCon keynote on Thursday morning in what he called the “hangover slot.” Conference attendees who slept in missed an inspiring, entertaining talk about putting mobile design first.

Luke Wroblewski is a well-known digital product leader and author of three Web design books, including Mobile First .He started his keynote with a simple message, “Let's start thinking about things for mobile first."

Market Growth

Wroblewski's talk and slides offered a lot of data to back up his points. He said that there are about 371,000 babies born worldwide every day. Then he compared that to how many mobile devices enter the world every day: 1.5 million. As Wroblewski points out, mobile devices have become the “personal computer,” which we actually carry with us -- on our person -- wherever we go, all the time. And we're not just talking about the United States. In Africa and Asia, more than half of the people who gain access to the Internet do so with a mobile device. In the US, that number is closer to 22%, but is expected to hit 50% by 2015.

Wroblewski lives in the Silicon Valley, and he says people there consider Kenya to be the Silicon Valley of banking. Mobile payments are huge there. Speaking of mobile payments, Wroblewski points out that PayPal was ahead of itself when the company was conceived as a mobile payment solution. In 2009, PayPal handled about US$ 141 million in payments. In 2011, the number was closer to US$ 4 billion.

Four years ago, 14% of the page views on Japan's big social network, mixi, were on mobile. Today, 85% of the mixi page views are on mobile. More than half of Twitter's users are on mobile devices. And 40% of all Yelp searches happen on mobile, even though only 8% of Yelp's audience is on mobile. That 8% is responsible for 40% of all the Yelp searches. More than half of Facebook's user base are mobile users, but those users are twice as active on the social networking site. Wroblewski says we should figure out how to make our product experience better on mobile devices.

Screen Size Matters

Because mobile screen size is 320x480, 80% of a desktop page won't fit on the screen, “Which I think is awesome,” Wroblewski says. He uses an old version of the Southwest Airlines site, compared to the mobile version, which led to an improved new online experience to illustrate how the constraints of the mobile screen size led to better, more useful web design.

Learning Opportunities

“If they start with the mobile version and then create the website, it will be better and focus on what users want,” he says. "The constraints in mobile force your focus." Plus, if you get your site to load fast on mobile, it will scream on the desktop, Wroblewski points out. When it comes to mobile design, users are working the device with one eye and one thumb. Partial attention requires focused design.


The capabilities of mobile devices mean plenty of room for innovation. Mobile devices can tilt, rotate and move. Wroblewski points to the Glimpse app for iPhone, which combines time-lapse video with GPS location detection. “"Very useful if you're running late to a meeting... or married," he notes.

Wroblewski talked about the ability to scan items to check out of a shop, using a mobile camera photo of a check to make a bank deposit and Goggle's ability to scan a work of art and identify it. Too busy to go grocery shopping? In Korea, Tesco lets shoppers scan QR codes on posters in subway stations to make purchases, which are then delivered to the shoppers' homes later.

If you missedWroblewski's keynote on the final day of DrupalCon in Denver, don't fret -- the video is available on the Denver DrupalCon site. But don't try watching it through your Safari browser on your iPhone. You'll just get back a black screen and a message that says, “The video you are trying to watch is a format not supported by the HTML video tag in this browser.”