There's been plenty of talk about the need for a 'mobile first' strategy, and this does make sense at the moment, as mobile use overtakes desktop for many sites.

However, the long-term thinking should be around the customer's needs rather than the device.

At the moment, that does mean mobile in many cases but this may not be how your customers will access your site in years to come. 

Who knows how customers will use your site in a few year's time. Maybe even on watches... 

This phrase 'customer first, not mobile first' should be credited to Sean Burton (@analytdata) who used this in the discussion at today's UX Day in Newcastle, an event organised by the region's Digital Union

Unfortunately, I only had time to see a couple of speakers, including an excellent overview of the importance of UX by the aforementioned Sean. 

He made the key point that UX is fundamental to the web, and should be the focus before any massive budgets are spent on attracting customers to sites.  

However, you only need to see the disparity in spending between acquisition and retention to realise that this is not always the case.

Companies are happy to spend lots on acquisition, they are less likely to allocate the same kinds of budgets to improving the on-site user experience. 

Indeed, this is something we found in our recent Cross-Channel Marketing Report. Though retention covers more than just UX, the overall user / customer experience is a massive factor in this. 

Is your company more focused on acquisition or retention marketing?

Following Sean was Lee Duddell from whatusersdo, a company which carries out remote user testing for a range of clients (these testing videos are featured on this post on the new M&S website). 

Lee talked about five key things everyone needs to know about UX, which you may be able to pick out in this grainy image from @annarzepczynski

I found the point about responsive design especially interesting. There has been widespread adoption of RWD, and there's no doubt that it can work. Indeed, we have a responsive version of our site on the way. 

However, the point Lee made was that it isn't simply enough to launch a repsonsive site and satisfy yourself that the mobile 'box' has been ticked. It needs to work for those mobile users. 

There was an example from FatFace, whose sales from mobile had actually dipped after launching a repsonsive site. The team were intially puzzled, being unable to spot any obvious bugs or flaws in the site when testing it themselves. 

It was only revealed as a result of user testing. The responsive site had removed the ability of customers to pinch and zoom on images, a common habit for touchscreen users.

This made it harder for customers to get a feel for products and in turn affected conversions. It was a relatively easy fix, which has since been applied.

And this brings us back to the original point, which is that you need to design for the needs of users first and foremost, not the device.  

Graham Charlton

Published 9 October, 2014 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

You might be interested in

Comments (8)

Save or Cancel

Lee Duddell

These were the "5 things everyone needs to know about UX" (as the image is a little grainy)...

1. Data has clues, not answers
2. User Experience starts sooner than you think!
3. Your Design Agency are an enemy of User Experience
4. Responsive Design is not a UX panacea
5. Rip up your roadmap if you want to improve User Experience

almost 4 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

Thanks Lee - I was too lazy to list them ;)

almost 4 years ago

Stuart McMillan

Stuart McMillan, Deputy Head of Ecommerce at Schuh

Sorry, as ever being slightly awkward here:

If we're to think customer first then isn't the most important point to ask whether we have the right product and services for our (potential) customer before we think about their online presentation?

For example, customers seem to like click and collect services, so shouldn't companies be focusing on that first, even if it presents organisational challenges?

Design your company for user needs.

almost 4 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

You're right Stuart. Thanks for being awkward ;)

The quote was in the context of providing excellent UX for mobile users, but I guess it does apply more widely.

almost 4 years ago

Stuart McMillan

Stuart McMillan, Deputy Head of Ecommerce at Schuh

yes, it was a bit of a meta point...

I remember some saying about trying to polish a brown waste product.

almost 4 years ago


Liz Carlson

While the "mobile first" crowd does not say RWD is a panacea, advocates for user testing, and believes in making affordances for mobile users -- I absolutely love the idea of "customer first."

I think the author also makes a great case about improving the UX for retaining users.

"You need to design for the needs of users first and foremost, not the device."

How about: "You need to design for the needs of users first, in the right context, where ever they'll be."

almost 4 years ago

Greg Randall

Greg Randall, Director at Econsultancy Guest Access TRAININGSmall Business Multi-user


Agree 100% with your comments and have always had the same approach (as I stated to you in a recent email).


Your 5 points are great, I support each and every one of them, particularly #3. My colleagues and clients wonder why I avoid working with Design Agencies. I do not want to over generalise, but the majority of times, my job is made more difficult when I work with agencies.

New Zealand and Australian retailers are still caught up with the buzz of "responsive" design. They feel if they have a responsive site the mobile experiences is taken care of.

What compounds this problem is retailers not setting up their analytics to monitor how the responsive site accommodates consumer needs on smartphones.

almost 4 years ago


Pauline Ashenden

You are exactly right Graham – consumers are using a huge number of channels, often spanning multiple devices during the customer journey. The key thing is to provide the answers they need and the experience they want on their channel/device of choice, without forcing them to change. Our own research last year discovered that 52% of consumers said that over half the sites they visited weren’t mobile optimised, meaning many companies need to start with getting the basics right. More in this blog post

over 3 years ago

Save or Cancel

Enjoying this article?

Get more just like this, delivered to your inbox.

Keep up to date with the latest analysis, inspiration and learning from the Econsultancy blog with our free Digital Pulse newsletter. You will receive a hand-picked digest of the latest and greatest articles, as well as snippets of new market data, best practice guides and trends research.