Innovative Insights

Avoiding The Many Pitfalls of Not Using Mobile-First Community Platforms

January 17, 2022
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Most platforms are built desktop-first. But this can hamper user experience and reduce retention.This is why you should always go mobile-first approach.

 Avoiding The Many Pitfalls of Not Using Mobile-First Community Platforms
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When you first get the idea to build a community, you’re bound to start thinking about the right platform to build it on. There are a slew of options available - Slack, Discord and dozens more. So, how do you even begin to choose? 

Well, to start off with, you might want to consider some key features that you absolutely must have. In this article - we’re going to be talking about one such feature - mobile support. 

Imagine you decide to buy a big bungalow in a far away land. You fill in the bungalow with grandiose furniture that suits the size of the bungalow.

However you notice an exodus of people moving to cities.

Unfortunately, the city is expensive and so you have to settle for a small 2-bhk. But your family is so used to the furniture you had in your bungalow, that they don't know which items to let go off. So your apartment is cramped and stuffed with not enough space to walk around.

A new guest comes to your house for the first time and is overwhelmed with all that's going on.

This is pretty much what happens when you build an app desktop-first, instead of following a mobile-first design approach.

At the Mobile World Congress in 2010, Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, spoke about designing products. He said that designers should always follow the “mobile first” rule in product design. Let’s find out why.

Web-first design (Decremental Disregard)

Designers will make great efforts to build an amazing desktop version. Unfortunately, they'll come to realize that it can hardly be adopted on a mobile end. Even if they can, many creative ideas will have to be sacrificed on. This is why the mobile end version will seem like an afterthought. An incomplete product which’s been watered down.

Web-first starts the product design from an advanced end like desktops. It builds a version with well-rounded features at the beginning. After building the desktop version, designers make the product compatible with mobile ends. They do this by cutting some functions, leading to degradation of features.

Mobile-first design (Incremental Improvement)

But if we take the mobile end product design as a starting point, things become easier. This is because designers will account for restrictions like bandwidth and screen size. They will naturally head for a lean & neat product with prioritized features. When the platform is expanded to a tablet or PC, designers are able to take advantage of the unique features of these advanced ends to strengthen the product step by step. This might be the main reason that progressive advancement strategy is widely suggested.

A mobile-first approach means that when we design a product, first we build a version for the relatively lower browser (like that on a mobile phone). This version includes the most basic functions & features. After that, we tend to the advanced version for a tablet or PC, which is created by adding interactions, more complicated effects, etc. on the basic version for a better user experience.

Internet Usage Worldwide Statistics


Internet Usage Engagement

From the above stats, we can see that mobile usage surpasses desktop usage in 2016 and people spend more and more time on the internet from mobile ends.

Web Vs Mobile

💡 At Scenes, we began with a mobile-first design approach and battle tested the platform across different phone specifications and network bandwidths. This might have cost us in terms of product launch, but ensured that the platform is much more robust and adaptable.

In short, the “mobile-first” principle has an important role in product design. On the one hand, it helps to save product design time and improve designers’ productivity. On the other hand, it forces designers to pay more attention to the content of a product, which helps them to created neat and practical designs.However, as smartphones become more and more powerful, the mobile-end might no longer be considered as “lower ends” in the near future, so the “move-first” may not be an everlasting topic. But for now, its place in product design cannot be ignored.

💡 On Scenes, if you you use just the white-labeled web platform, you can expect to see <3-5% monthly retention. If you host the community on the mobile platform, that number can go up to 15-20%.

Mobiles call the shots

When choosing a community platform, mobile support is absolutely necessary. Without mobile support, you might as well not do community. Even though the first interaction of a lot of new members might be through the web (and that's fine), you should aim to get them to mobile quickly. The main reason for this is that web notifications are routed to the user in two ways: by enabling desktop notifications and via email. 

To get a better understanding of how these notifications work, we’re broken it down for you below: 

1. By enabling desktop notifications

Push Notifications

Desktop notifications have very poor opt-in rates. Here are the industry averages for desktop notification opt-in rates for 3 popular industries — 

  • E-commerce: 0.5-5%
  • Media: 0.5 – 6%
  • Financial services: 0.5 – 10.5 %

Delivery rate is also lower if the computer is off (deciding to spam when they turn on the device isn't smart). If people have opted-in, then click through rate (CTR) is best between 11am-6pm. More importantly, you simply cannot send a high volume of chat messages via desktop push notifications.

Average click through rate Statistics

2. Via email

Email is an even worse format. For starters, you can't send chat notifications over email. Even just sending posts, you will eventually hit the spam folder (people will mark you as spam if you're sending a high volume). As a community scales, the volume of notifications obviously increases. Playing with email notifications is like playing with fire — if enough people mark you as spam, you're in potentially irreversible trouble. It is hard to fix a domain that gets on the bad side of Gmail's spam filters.

💡 Scenes has automatic thresholds based on community size to prevent your members from getting flooded with emails as you grow.

Mobile notifications

This is the main reason I suggest mobile notifications. By downloading an app, people give the app permanent real estate on their phones. Even though it is a little friction, your chat channels send out the highest volume of notifications.

💡 Unlike Discord, Scenes threads together chats like WhatsApp after 1-2 messages, saving a ton of real estate and pissed off users.

Mobile Notifications

If you’re planning  to own a large and healthy community in the long term, then you should seriously consider adopting a community platform that is mobile-friendly. This takes out big players -  like Discord - which are built primarily for desktop. But, fret not, we’ve built Scenes mobile-first and community-ready.

Book a free Demo here and let's chat!


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