India is a mobile nation, lining up right behind China as the second fastest growing market. Notwithstanding policy problems, growth has continued unabated. The raw numbers (1.3 Billion people. 911 Million mobile subscribers. 350 Million mobile data subscribers.130 Million internet users) are rather well known. Massive potential exists for brands & businesses to exploit the mobile web & create a digital ecosystem that leverages the soon to be billion strong subscription base.
Across the globe, whenever there is conversation on mobiles, two broad questions are being asked.
How do we adapt desktop web design to cater to mobile?
In the developed markets of the West, with mobile being another cog in ecosystem dominated by desktop (or notebook) access, the questions are all about adapting to mobile. The idea of Responsive Design has been gathering momentum, with web presence responding to different screen sizes. (For more on responsive design, here is the article that started it all http://www.alistapart.com/articles/responsive-web-design/)
How do we create mobile web experiences for first time users?
In mobile first markets like Indonesia, South Africa, Brazil, Kenya and Japan (yes, Japan, the pioneering market for mobile innovations before the term smartphone was born), the discourse has already shifted. Consumers in mobile first markets already use their phone as their first screen – using it to write mail even with a notebook open or watching episodes of their favourite shows while on the move. India is a natural member of this brigade. Yet, like many other possibilities Indian, there is far greater potential than current performance.
CMOs, who need to answer both these questions as well as leverage the latent power of the mobile ecosystem for their brands and businesses before their competitors do, are drilling down further. Does one need different renditions of websites for desktop & mobile? Does one need to focus on a singular task, like an app? What is the role for feature phones in the mix? How does one tackle e-commerce via mobiles? Does my particular brand/business even need a full-fledged mobile strategy?
One would recommend a pause. Consider the problem before jumping into a solution. By starting from the users’ context, their lives, how they live and interact among themselves and sometimes, with brands. How brands fit in to their lives, not the other way round.
Kristofer Layon’s insightful observations provide useful reflection:
Devices aren’t mobile, people are. People have been moving forever and whether high tech (say, a space station) or low tech (a cycle) proffer ideas on how to design for mobility.
Mobiles are all about doing. Mobile strategy and mobile implementation are all about enabling people to accomplish something.
Mobiles jostle for attention in busy and crowded contexts. Think about a car and its instrumentation.
Distraction is the natural state of mobile usage. One is invariably doing something else while on a mobile. Sometimes lunch, at other times watching TV or babysitting.
Mobile usage is increasingly in a state of relaxation. In fact, quite a lot of mobile usage is deskbound or sofa-bound.
Mobile interactions are largely about accomplishing specific tasks. Even if the task is about 3 Stars on an Angry Bird Level.
(You can read more here http://www.mobilizingwebsites.net/)
Human behavior – whether at the level of individuals, societies or nations are undergoing seismic shifts. Mobiles have been enabling many of these shifts. Whether it is disruptive (think political activism in repressive regimes), constructive (think disaster relief in Indonesia), expressive (think Facebook/Twitter/Instagram) or spontaneous (think BBM) – it is time to think of the role the mobile ecosystem can play for businesses.
To quote Luke Wroblewski, author of Mobile First, and the inspiration for this post, (http://www.lukew.com/resources/mobile_first.asp), “designing for mobile first not only prepares you for the explosive growth and opportunities in this space, it forces you to focus and enables you to innovate.”