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.
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).
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)?