As a business owner or marketer, having a website that is easy to use on a number of different type of mobile devices is crucial in 2014.
I was looking at some figures from Techcrunch, which I found interesting. Basically, it shows that more people are using mobile devices and apps rather than mobile or responsive websites.
This in some way puzzles me. I’m quite aware of the cost of producing apps for all three major smart phone platforms: Apple, Android and “Window Phone.” We are looking at an app that can work on three platforms between $10,000 to $50,000!
This is quite a bit of money and very much out of the reach for most of the clients that I work with on a day-to-day basis.
So how do you make your website easy to navigate and easy to use on a majority of mobile devices?
You have two basic choices
1) Mobile website
2) Fully responsive
I’m mostly going to talk about responsive solution. However, in the WordPress world, one of the most popular WordPress plugin solutions is WPtouch. It uses a hybrid mobile solution. It gives you a selection of mobile templates. Then, by some amazing custom WordPress technology, they transfer your WordPress post and pages into the chosen WPtouch template. In version 3 it now can handle custom posts.
I do have a developer license for WPtouch and I personally think it is a great quick and cheap solution. However, it has major limitations connected to being a plugin, but it does offer a cheap semi effective solution. A lot of people in the website design and development community are quite negative when it comes to separate mobile site solution. This is because when you are dealing with a mobile site you are talking about having two websites to maintain with all the costs connected to this type of solution.
However, this solution can still be a good choice for a lot of website owners.
A live example of this is the CustomInk main website and its’ mobile version. Here’s a great article that gives more information on the subject of when a mobile website might be a better solution then a responsive.
Sometimes, responsive is seen and sold as a magic type of solution, which it definitely is not. This can be seen when a mobile user wants a very different type of information then desktop users of a popular website. I feel that might be one of the main reasons why Customlnk chose the mobile type solution over responsive solution when dealing with its’ smart phone and tablet users.
For the majority of websites, I would say that responsive website is the best value solution. The real excitement connected to responsive design started in the web design/development industry with Ethan Marcotte’s article (Responsive Web Design May,-2010) on A list Apart website
The basic technology behind responsive design is quite easy (media queries). However, there are a lot of additional factors that have to be taken into account when dealing with the whole philosophy that’s behind modern responsive design.
I would personally say that “responsive design” is a way of thinking rather than just a new web core technology. Basically, you got to work out what the key areas of the site are and how these different areas are going to be shown connected to different screen sizes.
Sound simple? Believe me it’s not if it is done right. For you to be able to do this work, you need to have all the data i.e. the information, text, images, videos and every else that needs to be shown on the website before you really work out how you’re going to display various information connected to screen resolutions and sizes.
I was listening to the WordPress podcast, WPElevation episode 31 with guest Jason Vance, principal of BubbleUP Marketing. He was remarking that responsive design basically increased a fundamental problem that had been at the center of web design from the beginning of the Internet. How can you do real design if you don’t have any real idea of the content that is going to be placed on the website?
This fundamental core problem of the whole process has only been increased by the demands of responsive design. How his agency deals with this is not to do any real detail mockups or real design until the client has produced all the agreed content for the project.
However, they do a series of very detailed wireframes, with direct input from the client, with a number of wireframe design comps being produced.
His agency also produces with the client, after the formal contract is signed, an “Accountability Agreement” which really helps getting clients to provide all the content they need all the time on time!
I did like Jason’s basic processes and ideas. I personally am trying to get away from doing full Photoshop muck-up of all the key pages of a website and at most with a number of supportive wireframes. I then develop the website aimed at users who are using desktop and laptop. Then after we have got all the content that the client has provided, we look at what would be the best and most important content to show on tablets and smart phones connected to responsive design. I do things backward to what you see recommended by the industry.
I’ve found that doing this saves time because most of the clients that I deal with really need to see the desktop version before they can handle what to do when it comes to tablets and smart phones.
Obviously, I’m not saying this is ideal methodology to follow, but it is one that has worked for me at the present moment.
What you must understand is that just having a responsive theme, is only truly responsive to the information and layout which it has been design to display.
However, what you are not getting it all the planning, experience and discussion which is involved fully custom design that is necessary for a truly responsive design to really display our company’s information in a truly logical and flexible responsive way.