The Blurry Line Between Mobile & Desktop

October 24, 2012

With all the talk about mobile apps lately, sometimes it’s easy to forget that apps aren’t the only way your customers can see your company on mobile devices. A growing amount of traffic to company websites comes from mobile devices. As many as one out of every four visitors – 25% – are using a mobile device (a phone or tablet) to access the sites we’ve built recently.

It’s important to keep your mobile visitors in mind when you look at the design of your site. Remember, too, that not all mobile devices are the same; an iPhone 4S with a 3.5″ screen will show a site much differently than a 9.7″ iPad or 10.1″ Microsoft Surface tablet. Look at the comparison to the right to see some of the variety among today’s popular mobile devices.

How can you build for such a large range of devices without breaking the bank? Luckily, there are a few options.

Mobile sites and mobile web apps

There’s a pretty clear split in the world of mobile devices; there are phones and there are tablets. For the most part, phones have screens under 5″. If you want to make sure people can navigate your site on a phone, you may want to consider a separate mobile version of your site. Mobile versions come in two flavors: mobile sites, which strip down the design of your site to make it easier to read on a phone, and mobile web apps, which load in a web browser but behave like apps you’d download for your phone. If you’re building a mobile version, it’s important to consider the type of content you include as well as how much you want.

Touch-friendly sites

Tablet users are just as important as those who use a phone. Just this week, Microsoft is releasing its Surface tablet and Apple starts taking orders for the new iPad mini. When someone views your site on a tablet, they’re navigating with their finger – and links will appear smaller than they do on a desktop or notebook computer, especially on smaller tablets like the Kindle Fire or iPad mini. Are the links on your site big enough to tap?

The main links of your site should be big enough to see and tap without zooming, even on smaller tablets.

Responsive design

What if you could have one design for your site that adapts depending on screen size? That’s the approach of responsive design. If someone views your site on a desktop, notebook, or large tablet, they’ll see the full-featured version of your site; if they use smaller screens, they’ll see only the most crucial information. We have plenty more information about responsive design and its benefits if you’d like to learn more.

When you’re thinking about mobile traffic for your site, consider what your visitors will see. No matter which option you choose, it’s really important to consider the large and growing mobile market when you design your company’s site!

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Justin is one of the developers at Sephone. He's interested in user-driven design, social media, and web services. He also enjoys learning and exploring new ways for businesses and people to use the web.

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