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The Mobile Web

Author: Garret Hussak
February 15, 2012

If you’ve been listening to the word on the street, you’ve noticed…everyone’s talking mobile. We now expect that companies will provide us with access to their sites from mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, and developers are being called upon to create mobile sites and applications more and more often.

So, Why The Push For Mobile?

It’s simple – people are using mobile devices and the technology isn’t going away.

  • By one count, there are 5.3 billion mobile device subscribers in the world.
  • In the 4th quarter of 2012, manufacturers shipped more mobile devices (100.9 million) than PCs (92.1 million).
  • According to one source, mobile browsing has jumped almost 200% worldwide in the past year and is closing on 10% of total browsing.
  • It is estimated that by 2014, mobile browsing will surpass desktop browsing.

What To Consider?

While we can probably agree that mobile development is “where it’s at,” we need to remember, of course, that developing for mobile devices is it’s own animal, with both limitations and advantages that need to be taken into account:

  • Smaller screen size
  • Potentially slower connection speeds
  • Higher resolution displays
  • Access to the user’s location with GPS & other technologies
  • Access to the user’s camera
  • Access to the user’s contacts

How Do We Implement Mobile Functionality?

There are a variety of methods to reaching mobile users and catering to the benefits and limitations of mobile devices:

  • Mobile Applications – Apps are a great, often fun and engaging way to present content to people on the go. But it’s important to remember that apps are platform specific and can a long time to develop. You also need to take individual device capabilities into account when creating mobile apps.
  • Mobile Web Sites – Mobile versions of web sites that are either already in place or are being redesigned or developed from scratch are a perfect way to ensure visitors have the best possible experience when they access your site on their mobile devices. Mobile sites come with some great advantages over applications, as well, since they don’t have to be platform specific (though they can be, if necessary) and usually have a faster development time. Device capabilities also aren’t the issue they can be when developing apps.

Finally, Let’s Talk About Some Of The Technological Hurdles Involved In Mobile Development

As I mentioned earlier, mobile development is its own animal and we have to keep a few important practicalities in mind when we think about a mobile project:

  • The “old-school” idea that tables can be used for layout simply won’t fly on mobile devices. In a mobile environment, elements need to be able to stack as opposed to live side-by-side as in a desktop element.
  • Fixed widths won’t work. A 450px element might fit great on a desktop version of a site, but on most mobile devices that will have be switched to a fluid width.
  • Different users will see things (slightly) differently. Each device can have a different display resolution, aspect ratio, and browser.
  • Flash is dead slow and dying. Content previously presented using Flash should now be displayed using one of many mobile friendly technologies.