I first heard the term ‘mobile first’ not long into my software career while working for an ecommerce provider. At the beginning of the transaction journey, there was an ever-growing trend that consumers were no longer searching for products and services using desktop computers, instead using mobile devices.
This was predominantly down to the evolution of smartphone technology but also down to the new and emerging use of social media advertising. This subsequently fuelled the need to build ‘device responsive’ web technologies for ecommerce and service providers’ websites, with a mobile-first approach to design, optimising web pages for mobile to help drive transactions. Furthermore, this meant that digital advertising agencies had to move towards advertising with a mobile-first directive, flipping common processes and practices on their heads.
Moving to mobile
The tools used to facilitate the running, analysis and building of software and advertising evolved too. Throughout the 2010s, it was common to see software frameworks, user interfaces, and the tools within, changing to cater for mobile. A good example of this was Twitter, leading the way with its responsive Bootstrap software framework developed mid-2010, which is now one of the most used software frameworks available.
The trend is becoming equally as important and more prevalent in business software tools, increased further by the massive culture shocks rippling through society because of the pandemic.
Now more than ever, businesses must enable mobility throughout their workforce to enable staff to work anywhere, anytime. Without mobility in software, it would have been impossible for many businesses to have continued to operate over the past two years. In essence, the same principles apply for business tools as it did for ecommerce in 2010s; it’s not only selling software that’s subject to a mobile-first approach but also the software solutions we use for our everyday business processes. This includes the ever-evolving trend of accessibility, itself intrinsically linked to mobility.
UI/UX best practice
When developing new solutions, software providers must optimise those solutions for mobile delivery and make business processes just as easy to do as they would be from a desktop. This has been made easier by a decade of research by some of the leading technology companies, meaning that a generation of UI/UX designers have learned mobile-first best practices for user interfaces, based on research from wide-ranging studies with enormous budgets; for example, it’s generally thought that Apple focuses primarily on UX research, not market research.
The rapid evolution of handheld devices, with the increased demand for accessibility and mobility for business tools, is accelerating the ‘mobile native’ trend, which is mobile-first by design, but more importantly, resulting in software built specifically for mobile devices, with desktop compatibility a secondary consideration. Confirmation of the importance of this trend in our sector has been demonstrated by the uptake in Aareon’s Versaa mobile platform, released last year.
Central source of truth
Mobile-enabled software allows us to have integrated systems and solutions, meaning that housing staff can support their communities via mobile devices, requesting data straight from systems that hold the central source of truth for their tenant or property. Supporting tenants where and when they need it most means that housing providers need to invest in mobile solutions, digitising all business processes where possible.
Digital and environmental transformation programmes are both intrinsically linked to the need for mobility in software, directly related to impending carbon neutral targets being imposed by the end of this decade. Housing providers therefore need the flexibility to build their own mobile working solutions, without dependencies on software providers. In turn, this is driving the adoption of low/no-code platforms, enabling the creation of mobile-working solutions for any commonly-used mobile device.
Mobile-first design and mobile-native software are both central to everything we do in our working, social and family environments. It has been exciting to see how technology has evolved to meet the demands of this trend and how the mobile-first and mobile-native approaches have driven innovation in software globally as well as housing-specific developments.
Jack McLean is the product marketing manager at Aareon UK.