We’ve come a long way since designing websites for specific browsers and building WAP sites for mobile devices. Since phones have been getting smarter and more powerful, mobile websites have begun to look a lot better. But that was true only a few years ago.
Fast forward to today. You’ve probably got as many cores and pixels on your phone or tablet as you do on your laptop computer. Maybe more. Browsers such as Safari on iOS as well as third-party ones such as Dolphin and now Chrome for Android do a pretty good job of displaying the full HTML5 web on mobile devices. So why are we still designing separate websites for desktops and mobile devices?
No, I’m not saying that we should just have desktop versions of the websites shown as-is on mobile devices. In fact, I’m actually suggesting the exact opposite.
For years we’ve used complicated, busy websites with a hundred things on a page and we were okay with that. Remember the ICQ website? It was getting pretty crowded. But then Google came in and addressed the content overload issue by simplifying the web (their web, at least) and reducing the content in one page at a time. We’ve liked and embraced that, but for some reason, the desktop web is still more complicated than it needs to be.
Mobile websites of today are functional, comprehensive enough and yet simple. I think all websites need to be like that. Take, for example, the new ReadWrite website (formerly ReadWriteWeb). It loaded like a mobile version, so I reloaded it a couple of times and tried different browsers, but then I paid more attention and realised that it’s a harmonious blend of mobile features and desktop web. The vertical parallax effect involving the rightmost column is fantastic!
This strategy is ‘mobile first’ and that’s really the way the web should be designed from now on, but, also, it doesn’t hurt to dump the desktop web completely and design just a responsive, mobile website. And just call it a website.