When it comes to mobile vs responsive, let the numbers do the talking.
Do the math: 311 million people in just the US alone, half of whom – 155 million – have smartphones, and 28 percent, or 43.4 million people, use their smartphones as the primary way to access the web. So why are companies still primarily designing websites for a desktop or laptop computer when it comes to mobile vs responsive? Beats me.
If you take the obvious leap and decide to build your website to accommodate or even enhance the mobile device experience, you have two choices:
- Design your site to be responsive to the device on which it is being viewed.
- Build a separate, mobile site specifically targeted for mobile devices with your main site built for standalone computing.
The new trend towards “mobile-first” design basically means starting with a clean, simple mobile design and adding features as needed, rather than trying to wedge a full desktop-style interface into a single column.
Most responsive websites rely on CSS media queries that reference screen widths, but they can also respond to specific browser features and exhibit behavior that “progressively enhances” an interface. There may be times when mobile or tablet interfaces should feature a different set of content than for desktop browsers. For example, media queries use up precious bandwidth.
On many desktop websites, users have drop-down menus to access nested categories from a single click. But in mobile interfaces, each set of navigation options is usually presented one at a time.
Also, fixing navigation elements to the screen may be necessary, so that users don’t have to scroll to access them. Desktop websites can rely more heavily on search driven navigation, which is more difficult to manage with virtual keyboards.
Most importantly, mobile users are usually in a different mode than desktop users. Assumptions about the context of the device usage are difficult to make, but compared to desktop usage, mobile users quite often will be standing up, walking around or driving. Sometimes mobile users are just scanning their handset or tablet, which may call for less detailed content than what is appropriate for more focused desktop users.
So, no matter which approach you decide to take with mobile vs responsive when building or re-designing your company’s website, consider how your users will be interacting with it. Chances are they won’t be sitting at a desk while they viewing it.
Lynne Rine is an alliance partner of Parallel Interactive. With over 25 years experience in new media design, Lynne offers a unique combination of design experience and technical proficiency. She is the Creative Director and owner of Think Outloud.