Mobile or Responsive? How about both

This started off as just another reply, before I realized I’m me and I don’t know when to shut up so here’s a reply in post form.

There’s little reason to be either/or in this case though.

I’ve been working on a side-project (a discussion forum basically) and been experimenting with ideas on mobile friendly pages.

It’s far from perfect, but for my purposes, it gets the job done. And I don’t claim to be a design “expert” since that’s not my forte, but I have designed for clients before.  I… er… “borrowed” a few topics from the front page of the WP support forums for the first example before switching to faux latin for the rest. Also stole borrowed the sidebar cues for the “topic” page from the support forums as well (which is running bbPress), but I’m using none of the same CSS. I think I’m done with Version 3.

I’m using just one stylesheet that makes the page adapt to any screen size between a minimum 480px to 1000px+ and the visitor doesn’t need to refresh the page.

I kept the range at that wide because there are still users of older monitors (that they don’t want to change for whatever reason or are unable) that still deserve to participate online and those are usually maxed out in the 800 – 1024 range. Tablets also fit the upper limit of that range these days.

Anyone should be able to resize the browser and see the page change styles. The “mobile” version (on the smallest window size) was designed to give maximum contrast. That’s to make it easy on the eyes since it’s pretty painful to browse a lot of sites with their tiny-weeny text and ridiculous backgrounds on a mobile device.

There’s a drive to create these “mobile specific” pages, if that’s the right term, from a lot of web designers and I totally disagree with the premise. I can understand if it’s a heavy-duty web application where one template can’t serve all platforms, but in most cases, it’s just a corporate site or blog that can just as easily be served with an adaptable stylesheet. I think it’s just narrow thinking for the most part.

It’s absolutely possible to design a site that will adapt gracefully to a mobile device while not depriving the desktop experience. Just a matter of leaving aside the junk, of which there is plenty sadly, being served to the client regardless. I wrote about that too a while ago.

Don’t get me wrong. There are very talented designers out there that go out of their way to make attractive mobile pages, but their focus should be “how much” they send to the client and not just “how pretty”. Data plans aren’t cheap after all and “unlimited” plans aren’t really “unlimited” or available everywhere a lot of times. Also a lot of mobile browsers aren’t capable of the voodoo that desktop browsers are capable of (yes even Safari on iPhone).

Sometimes designers just need to step back from their projects and go “what is it that I’m trying to accomplish here?”

The golden rule of web design always applies. The theme should fit the content, never the other way around.

Well, hopefully all that made sense. I don’t normally comment on web design choices unless they’re keeping me from browsing comfortably (like the Huffington Post which I’ve abandoned as a result), but since I was interested, there ya go.

8:00PM I’m tired and it’s been a long day so I’m off to hit the hay. Night!

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2 thoughts on “Mobile or Responsive? How about both

  1. After time I got annoyed opening webpages on my iPhone when I am not connected to a Wifi network and it is not absolutely necessary, it simply takes too long and it feels like a waste of time.

    • It really shouldn’t be that way. It’s not as if these designers don’t have mobile devices of their own. They just need to step into the shoes of the visitors to see what’s really happening.

      It’s a shame really, since these people are losing traffic to an issue that shouldn’t exist in the first place.

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