Options in Mobile Web Design

Designing websites for mobile access is a very painstaking process. There are so many different mobile browsers with different characteristics that it is a miracle indeed that successful mobile-friendly sites exist at all.

A typical mobile web design session at my end includes extensive testing on a variety of devices, and modifications after modifications effecteed till a working and generally satisfactory result is produced.

One of the challanges of mobile web design is that of choosing what route to take in making a website mobile-friendly. I am going to list the options below and ask you, our regulars, to comment from your experiences with browsing via mobile.

1. A Separate Mobile Site

In this scenario, the regular website exists at default.com, and a parallel mobile version is maintained at m.default.com (or mobile.default.com, wap.default.com, etc)

Usually, a link to the mobile site is placed on the main site, or a mobile device detection script is setup to redirect users browsing on mobile to the mobile version.

2. One Single Location Designed to Adapt when Loaded on Mobiles

This has been my default route for years, but it is a very tedious one. Usually, the adaptation is done by manipulating CSS. Unfortunately, different mobile browsers choose differently what CSS specifications to read.

A lot of manipulation and testing goes into making sure that a huge percentage of mobile browsers will load this satisfactorilly.

3. Use Server-side Commands to format the Webpages

In this case, by manipulating HTACCESS files on the server and a bit of PHP prepending and appending, the server spits out a version of the regular website stripped of all CSS formatting.

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The results in this case often look bare and without any eye-candy, but it works well, especially if the pages have been semantically structured (Did you guys understand any of this? I understand that this is not a developer community. Apologies).

Which Route?

Okay, maybe you don’t quite get the 3rd one, so let’s stick with options 1 and 2. Which do you prefer when browsing? Getting a site where you are given a mobile-specific address, or the site that simply re-formats to adapt to your device’s screen (as much as possible)?

Mister Mobility

I started blogging about mobile in 2004 as a fun way to share my passion for gadgets and mobile services. My other interests include digital media, speaking and teaching, photography, travelling, and dancing.

6 thoughts on “Options in Mobile Web Design

  • April 21, 2009 at 7:47 pm
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    For me, it doesnt matter how i get to d site.what matters is getting a site dat fit my browser well but most times mobile-specific sites open faster than those dat reformats themselves to fit phone screens.

  • April 22, 2009 at 3:49 am
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    Because I do my browsing mostly on my phone, I prefer for the browser to reformat the site to mobile version and for a link to be provided to the full website.

  • April 22, 2009 at 9:45 pm
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    Thanks, guys. I am currently highly in favour of giving the user the option of which interface to view. The difference between this and option 1 above is that this is actually a hybrid of options 1 and 2.

    It is the same site, but modified with CSS and with links available so the user can choose “Desktop View” or “Mobile View”. Option 1 as stated above consists of two parallel sites. This new position of mine has to do with one single site that metamorphoses according to the choice of the user.

    This has tremendous benefits. For example, I have been in situations in which I needed to view the full desktop format of a site on my mobile device, and there have been cases in which the mobile version of a site came in handy on PC (e.g. during periods of very slow internet connection).

    Thus, my position is leaning more on giving the user the choice to decide the format of a website he is visiting regardless of the device in use.

  • May 13, 2009 at 10:02 am
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    Any info about multi link telecom in your wealth of ideas? U a really doing a big work. Kindly extend ur infos to cover networks like Starcoms, Multi-link Telecom and O-net. More grease to ur elbows.

  • May 13, 2009 at 11:37 am
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    Hi Ose, thanks for the compliments. We do try.

    There isn’t much happening in the direction of Multilinks at he moment. It is also difficult to test out the services of CDMA operators because the phones don’t have the flexibility of swapping SIMs like GSM has.

    That means we will need to purchase at least one phone from Multilinks, Starcomms, Visafone, and 1stWireless, for example, inorder to be able to keep up with their services.

    Add to that the fact that the features on most CDMA phones available from those operators are just dated: imagine 1.3 megapixel cameras – in 2009!

    But we’ll keep presenting whatever we have on them. Thanks again!

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