Restructure your team to design for mobile first

Ok, that might be a tough statement but it makes the point I want to make today, the last day of 2011. By it, I mean that in the past 4 years or so we have seen the explosion of the smartphone and more broadly, the mobile web. This isn’t a new trend anymore, yet as we move in to 2012 I don’t think many organisations have really taken this seismic shift in to account. Their teams are still structured to produce content for the old web. Their designers are still web-designers. Their content editors are still editing content for the web. Their managers are still managing expectations for a web world. And this is shutting off opportunities everywhere.

I wrote recently about building great teams. It’s my contention that one of the best investments you could make in 2012 is to encourage your web team to design for mobile first, and the general web second. Here are some thoughts to keep in mind as we explore that in 2012.

1. The stats

Fred Wilson posted some stats recently from one of his portfolio companies, Flurry. Flurry are an analytics provider to 140,000 mobile app developers around the world, so have a cacophony of great stats that display the trends we’re seeing.

This post outlines the main trends of the past year, and highlights where mobile adoption is currently, as well as where the most potential for increased adoption lies. This graph below is especially relevant. It displays which markets have the highest number of addressable market where people have not yet adopted a smartphone.

Finally, check out Fred’s seminal post on this topic: Mobile first web second. It’s been around for a while and is great reading.

2. Email counts

When I use the word design, I don’t just mean the actual look of your web presence. I also mean the entire experience people will have when interacting with your web presence. Email is a very important part of that, because it is a core part of many people’s mobile experience. Even with a traditional Blackberry, email is the core functionality. If you haven’t thought about how you’re using email to reach your people yet, then you need to consider this next year.

As a simple example, you can subscribe to this blog via email. You do so by just clicking the red mail icon to the right of this post above. Ev Bogue and Ross Hill also have fantastic email/web presences (much better than this blog!) and continue to refine that. Check their stuff out at http://evbogue.com and http://rosshill.com.au.

3. Encourage the change you want to see

You can encourage your team to begin designing more for mobile by encouraging this change in them. This will be a big shift for a lot of people, so make sure you’re aware of the effort this will take from your team. One way to begin this change is to highlight just how well adopted mobile currently is. Ask them to take note of the number of people absorbed by smartphones in their daily lives. How many do you spot in your train carriage? In your bus or tram? Show them research to back up their observations. Anything by Jan Chipchase is brilliant. It’s a big change, but one that will only continue to pay dividends as time marches on.

4. What does procurement think?

Finally, nothing masks the proliferation of mobile adoption more than not being able to use your own corporate services on the your smartphone. We’re seeing the continued adoption of BYO technology in the workplace. This is a trend that will continue to be very important and won’t go away. Suncorp, a Yammer client here in Australia, moved to a BYO strategy earlier in 2011.

Given this, it’s important to have the conversation now with your security and procurement departments to ensure that mobility is ‘on the list’ when it comes to purchasing a new or upgraded system. Asking your web team to design for mobile first when they’re not able to access their email away from their work computer only serves to highlight a gap between your implicit goal and your explicit goals. (Or, more simply, do as I say not say as I do).

Real change will happen if your organisation is willing to move itself to where the puck is going to be. You can start the first week of 2012 by simply having the conversation again with your team. What would our presence look like if we designed for mobile, first?

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