Website display on mobiles and tablets
2017 update: The topic of website display on mobiles is now so mainstream it is hardly worth discussing. We design all websites to be mobile-friendly and this is now a ranking factor with Google. But the page still explains what this means for anyone who is unsure about it.
Increasing numbers of people are using mobile devices to access websites. These can range in size from the largest (iPads) to the smallest (mobile phones), with the smaller tablets and larger phones in between. Typical figures for mobile usage are around 20%, that’s one fifth of visitors (October 2013).
Why does this matter? Because a website that is designed for a desktop computer can be much harder to see, and therefore navigate, on a very small device. Small screens can access all websites, but not necessarily easily. The answer is to design a site that is mobile-friendly.
What is a mobile-friendly website?
It is a site whose information and navigation are optimised for small screens. As screens become smaller, the material rearranges so that the most important appears first and the navigation changes to suit fingers rather than cursors.
If you are using on a desktop computer and want to see whether a particular website is mobile-friendly you can check easily. Re-size your browser by hovering your cursor over the left or right edge, drawing it inwards to narrow the viewport, and see what happens. Does part of the website disapear to the right of the monitor? Or do the contents rearrange themselves to fit the viewport? (you will not see these changes if you are using Internet Explorer versions 8 or earlier). Smartphones and tablets have the ability to zoom out of non-optimised web pages so that the whole page appears in the viewport. But it is very small. In order to read or navigate, visitors need to keep enlarging the screen with their fingers.
Responsive web design
Webpages that change layout as the viewport narrows or widens are called “responsive”. Designers achieve this through very different coding techniques from non-responsive websites.
Another approach to targeting mobile devices involves creating an alternative, responsive version of a non-responsive website. Some extra code redirects mobile device users to the responsive version. This can result in mobiles only being able to access a pared-down version of the original site, containing only limited information and functionality.
It’s usually better to redesign and modernise the whole website.
Should I have my old website redesigned so that is displays on mobiles?
Mobile optimisation is becoming the new standard for modern websites, mainly because mobile surfing is only going to increase. A mobile-optimised site is more future-proof in structure, even if mobile devices change radically from what is available even now.
The real question is, who are aiming your the website? The answer will naturally depend on the type of business or organisation it is promoting. A website aimed at youth should be easily accessible on mobiles. One directed at older age-group probably need not. Your business matters too: are people likely to want to find you while on the move?
Contact us about your website display on mobiles.
Category: FAQs & Tips
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