Plan for a Mobile First World

New York from a Cab

In his great keynote speech at IMS 2012 in San Francisco, Rick Bakas said, “We have to think mobile first, desktop second.” (I admit that I heard absolutely zero percent of the rest of the speech, because that little seed was enough to plant a forest in my head.) But in case that wasn’t enough, I had an experience a few hours later that fertilized the point and forced the issue.

It turns out that in San Francisco, getting a taxi to actually stop and pick you up is a bit of a chore. I met one cab driver who told me that he’d met several mayors and heads of government, simply because he’s a role model because he picks up more passengers than most drivers. (Now, before some union or other association wants to complain that I’m misrepresenting drivers in SF, I have no idea of the details. This is my experience + what I was told.)

Thank goodness another cab driver told me about Cabulous, this mobile app that lets you notify a driver that you need a pick-up without having to call the dispatcher at all. This saved Jacq and me a bunch of time, and just generally made travel work better for us in SF. Plus, it gave the driver more fares without having to wait for his dispatcher or guess where people were waiting. It worked well (in San Francisco, mind you- a very high tech area).

But this is just the story that leads me to the conversation.

A Mobile First World

I’m planning a new event that takes an even bigger, more innovative swing at how mid-sized to larger businesses will function around this digital channel. In putting it all together, I’m paying more attention to how businesses of all sizes utilize the various tools at their disposal to conduct business. For instance, I’ve been paying a lot more attention to how mobile changes the game.

For instance, this cab driver doesn’t need to have a blog. He doesn’t need a board on Pinterest. Cabulous is a mobile-first solution that gives him more buyers. Because his business is built on a simple transaction, why should he bother with all the frills? He shouldn’t.

But what about you? Are your business interactions as simple? And are you built around a mobile-first mindset? I’m guessing you’re not. I know that I’m not. My sites are all mobile-ready and mobile-enhanced, partly because I use a mobile-friendly theme from Studiopress (affiliate link), and also because I use a mobile-formatting plugin for [] (called wptouch). We need to think even more about this.

The Mobile-First World and You

Look from your side of the equation first: you sleep with your smartphone right beside the bed, don’t you? You reach for it first thing in the morning. You never leave the house without it. You put it on the table at breakfast like a gunslinger. You’re even starting to do some business functions via your mobile devices.

So, that’s you as the user. What about you as the business owner, as the collaborator, as the face of interactions between others and your company? What do you have to do to prepare? What steps will you take?

Join a Free Webinar to Learn More

My business partners at Citrix Online (makers of GoToMeeting, GoToWebinar, GoToSleep, and similar) have sponsored a conversation between myself and Chuck Martin, CEO of the Mobile Future Institute and author of the bestseller, The Third Screen: Marketing to Your Customers in a World Gone Mobile (amazon affiliate link).

We’ll talk about marketing, but also about collaboration, internal business functions, and whatever else I can wring out of Chuck’s brilliant mind. This conversation isn’t one to miss, as I have a lot to ask him, after hearing from Rick Bakas and observing Cabulous in action.

Join us? The details are here:

Reserve Your Seat Here (it’s FREE). runs on the Genesis Framework

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  • Dave Thackeray

    I like this. I’m not the greatest master of cerebral swordsmanship but I can envision how people are moving beyond the desktop into humanisation of digital to enable the world to do business through touch, not thinking. Apps allow for that – assuming the developer has UX running through his veins.

    I’ll be jumping on this mininar because Brogan is nifty.

  • Brock Taylor

    Hey Chris,

    You have a very good point. I think mobile will become more and more dominant in society. Desktops may have their place for a while, but with increasing frequency, tablets and large smart phones are gaining desktop-like functionality by the day.

    I haven’t optimized my business as much as I probably should when it comes to mobile, this is a good reminder that I need to jump on that train!

  • Nitin Khanna

    Chris, Good set of points. I just wanted to point one thing out – Mobile first is a great strategy but one mustn’t forget the Web as a way to gain users. Apps like Instagram ignore their webapps and this is a win for others who build on their APIs. This is similar to how Twitter ignored the mobile/IM for so long that many services around these platforms popped up and flourished before Twitter came up with their own apps.

  • Christopher Somers

    Mobile and video are the buzzwords I think for 2013 and 2014. Our website looks good on a mobile platform but we are in the process of updating it to make it more mobile friendly knowing that over the years more and more folks will be on mobile.

  • Raul Colon

    Last time I got a cab in San Francisco thanks to the Hotel Front Desk they told me to call them via phone. When I walked out of the Hotel Front Door the cab was just stopping by. Sadly I did not jot down the number of the cab and when returning I had a similar experience of not being able to hail down a cab.

    I read this post on my mobile phone and put a to do to come back and comment on my computer. I guess when it comes for us to make content for the audience to consume mobile should be our main focus. When expecting them to take actions that is where we really have to consider user experience because commenting on my phone is not as easy as doing it on my macbook.

    If we continue to focus more on mobile first we will eventually get to the point where laptops will become desktops and mobile devices will become are laptops.

  • Rob Orr

    I’ve been thinking more and more about mobile after continuously noticing that so few businesses are mobile-ready. It’s astounding how many of the big boys out there are still loading desktop-designed pages in to mobile browsers. Mobile ready websites/apps etc. are a must and will be a growing focus for my business. I’ve got a lot of catching up to do myself.

  • Kevin

    Hey Chris, When you refer to mobile, do you mean just phones or do tablets and smaller laptops fall in the mobile category?
    Thanks, Kevin

    • Chris Brogan

      All mobile devices, including smartphones, tablets, and other non-comms devices.

  • Jared Latigo

    While I agree that it’s important, as a web designer, I’d say it depends on the industry. I agree that people check their phones first thing in the morning and emails should be mobile ready for sure. I’m also a huge fan of responsive design which allows the site to scale to any platform be it mobile, tablet, or gigantic TV.

    My thought though is that there honestly are some companies out there that I would never look at on my phone. Maybe a tablet but I don’t even have one of those right now. The web design industry has been mobile for some time as we have needed it amongst ourselves…but many other industries are slowly getting there.

    In any case, my point is that I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all for mobile first across all industries. Plus, the whole idea of mobile first is that we would think simple and small and then scale up. So what is the problem with thinking simple and large and scaling down? It’s really the same thing, but the latter probably allows for more dreaming and creativity since our thinking isn’t constrained to just a few features that will load quickly.

    Just my opinion of course…good conversation going on here though!

    • Chris Brogan

      Definitely right to think that way, but you said it yourself that it’s a solo opinion. If you look at trends, tablets and smartphones outsold the desktop last christmas and haven’t stopped since.

      • Jared Latigo

        Yes of course they’ve overtaken desktop sales…that market is saturated. But that’s really not my point anyway.

        As a creative, why would we lock ourselves into a mobile-first or desktop-first world? We have enough constraints and boundaries as it is. To me, the best way would be paper-first, assessing the users and needs and figuring out a plan for what we will offer them. Then we come up with a strategy for each of the different platforms.

        What will or mobile version offer users?
        What will our tablet version offer users?
        What will our desktop version offer users?

        Believe me, I’m all for mobile and tablet and see a HUGE future in it. I’m not denying it at all. I just think we can’t set any of them “first” like we took for granted back when desktop was the only option.

        Thoughts anyone?

  • owengreaves

    Where ya been Chris, I and many futurists have talking about this for a few years. Mobile & Social will be necassary to survive the other 3 Billion coming online. Why, because when they get online, Internet access will be via smartphones, & tablets, desktops will only be found in large, large corps with mainframe type environments.

    In fact, doesn’t the cloud remind you of the old DUMB terminal, no hard drive just access to data on servers (cloud).

    Anyway, this is not new information, Mobile & Social are the top two things, The Future Of Business.


    • Chris Brogan

      Oh, I’ve known mobile WILL be coming. I’ve known it for decades as I came up from wireless telecom. Know what? They’ve said “will” for decades. Now? It’s time.

  • Michael Howard

    Why are we all moving around so much that mobile will overtake desktop? To be honest, I rarely use my smart phone at all because I work from home. When I go out, it’s to walk along the seawall or run some errands, and in those times I don’t want to be disturbed with work. So for me, working means desktop (well, laptop), not mobile. Am I becoming the only one that actually works at a desk anymore? Am I becoming outdated?

    • Chris Brogan

      That might be just you, though. YOU don’t move around much. The world is moving around plenty.

  • Turndog Millionaire

    All over this, sounds like a top talk

    The entire mobile world excites me. Seriously, where can it all lead? It’s crazy to think where we could be in 5 years. I’m excited

    I’ve got at least one grand mobile plan for the future. If the next few years go according to plan, this will become a big part of my life.

    Matthew (Turndog Millionaire)

  • David Bourne

    My mom wants a smartphone. She’s not good with computers and 70. That’s pretty telling.

    Chris, I was hoping to get a Kindle link for Chuck’s book so I can be more mobile. Found it and saved. Thx again.

    • Jodi Kaplan

      David, my mom wanted an iPad (she’s also not good with computers and nearly 75).

  • Karl Schroeder


    I’ve been a reader of yours for some time, and to think of it, I don’t recall having read a post on my desktop or even laptop. (I’m typing on my smartphone now). As a marketer, it doesn’t matter so much what ‘my’ predilections are, but what how my audience consumes information, products and services. All roads point toward mobile.

    At rocketmob, we’re planning for the next 3-5 years, and mobile is at the core.

  • rickbakas

    Thanks for the shout out, Chris. In a new eBook entitled ‘Mobile First’ by Luke Wroblewski (he’s a web designer), Luke suggested by designing for the mobile screen first, it actually helps the desktop version of your site in function and performance. Good to think about for any marketer from now until forever.

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  • Nick Barron

    I know better, but until your post, Chris, had neglected using wptouch on my blog. Sometimes the choir needs to hear the preaching.

  • Danny Brown

    Hey there Chris,

    Just curious about the mix of responsive design and WP Touch – is there a specific reason? I was using WPtouch Pro for the longest time, but when I switched to responsive design it negated the need for it – are you seeing specific analytics that suggest both are needed?


  • Mike Jones

    Just curious about the mix of responsive design and WP Touch – is there a
    specific reason? I was using WPtouch Pro for the longest time, but when
    I switched to responsive design it negated the need for it – are you
    seeing specific analytics that suggest both are needed?

  • Jud Mackrill

    Good post. Mobile and the need for a responsive design is creating a ton of opportunity for firms like mine to help deliver solutions and to really just help people acknowledge what is on the horizon.

    BTW: The gunslinger illustration is excellent.

  • Doug Spence

    My Father wants blackberry Phone and he can’t wait for so long

  • Boasting BiZ

    The mobile world is a huge market that is only going to increase in time. Smartphones has made shopping, calling a taxi, and even ordering food very convenient.

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  • Frank

    You spoke about some interesting points here. I absolutely understand everything you have mentioned. In fact, I browsed through your various other articles and I think you happen to be completely right. Best wishes with this particular blog.

  • Brian

    I 100% agree with you in regards to a mobile world heck you can say were already there… I need to get Blog Engage going mobile ASAP it’s crazy data visiting the site it’s all images. The problem is the money needed to invest in the mobile industry, with technology changing so fast we have to products multiple platform OS apps that have monthly upgrades.So as a young website owner like myself how am I supposed to come up with this budget Until development is more affordable we will see some stunt in small community growth and adaptability. Perhaps what we need is the Wal-Mart of mobile development.

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  • Nando

    Can’t attend tomorrow’s webinar, but signed up for next week’s.
    I’m changing all my sites to responsive StudioPress temes and recommending new website clients to follow suit. Changing existing websites to mobile is typically more traumatic, so I also recommend WP Touch for WordPress sites, and an Austin company, for others.
    What’s funny about doing that for micro- and small business is that it’s made me realize the same as you mention: not every business needs a website/blog/email marketing/social media combo. They need what ever solution works for them. I’ve found the real service is to help them figure out what that solution is.

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  • Karen Baker

    Looking forward to the Webcast! Thanks Chris and Chuck!

  • Muhammad Ayaz

    Hi Chris,

    Certainly, how the world is growing rapidly that’s really amazed and you have again come up with really interesting idea and now a days mobile increasingly using more than laptop etc.

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