The philosophy is catching on, the market if catching up. Mobile First has taken root and for us developers things are getting easier. The Foundation framework by Zurb has adopted the principle in version 4, its latest incarnation:
“Mobile First: Now you can build for small devices first. Then, as devices get larger and larger, layer in more complexity.”
Next to follow is the very popular Twitter Bootstrap, when version 3 is released:
“Go mobile first. Responsive CSS is no longer separate and all responsive features are now compiled into the core bootstrap.css file. Separate files are no longer required, and have thus been removed.”
With these two productivity tools pushing the Mobile First mantra, we can expect the whole web landscape to start becoming a lot more responsive. This is a great opportunity for developers, and a great way to get left behind for businesses who don’t consider how important having the right site for the right device really is.
The roots of popular music are firmly embedded in technological innovation — and limitation. Symphonic music, Opera and multi-verse ballads were all the rage around the time that Edison invented the phonograph. Edison’s invention used cylinders, and these allowed lengthy recordings as fit the style of the times, but they were superceded by the flat disc, which was easier to stack and package.
The earliest records were 10 inch shellac discs with wide grooves, that allowed 3 minutes of recording time per side. The popularity of this technology roughly coincided with the rise of radio, and the two technologies fit together perfectly. The demand for content to fit these 3 minute discs gave rise to a new art form: the popular song.
The 3 minute pop song remained a standard long after the technology had advanced beyond the initial limitations. When RCA introduced the 7 inch 45 in 1949, it was capable of holding 7 and a quarter minutes per side, but it wasn’t until 20 years later that there was any real demand for utilising that length. Instead, thousands of well crafted 3 minute pop songs continued to dominate the airwaves.
To this day songwriting ‘rules’ continue to be influenced by a technological limitation that ended 63 years ago. This is in part because of the legacy of all the great pop singles from the 50’s and 60’s, and because two generations of listeners have been ‘trained’ to appreciate a catchy, 3 minute ditty.
So what does any of this have to do with web development, and specifically mobile web development?
I am a believer in, and am trying to be a follower of, the ‘Mobile First’ philosophy which has emerged in the last couple of years. I first heard mention of this concept by Dale Mugford of BraveNewCode who gave a talk at my local WP meetup group, and was immediately hooked. More recently I have been reading Luke Wroblewski’s ‘Mobile First‘ book, which outlines a very compelling argument for embracing this idea.
For those who don’t know, Mobile First is a design and development philosophy that proposes websites and applications should be built primarily for mobile platforms, before considering desktop platforms. The reasoning behind the philosophy is also straightforward: mobile platforms are overtaking desktops as the primary means that users interact with the internet. The statistics are not trivial; smart phone and tablet use is growing exponentially, and 2012 is set to be the year that their use as the most common web access device exceeds that of traditional desktops.
And yet the development industry lags.