(The following is a response to a guest blog post on Forbes.com titled “Time to Stop Building Mobile Websites“)
When I first read the headline of the Forbes guest post, I was puzzled. It’s akin to someone writing an article titled “The Titanic Never Sank.” It’s an inaccurate, sensationalist headline. The article also contained a fair amount of false information. The core message is good, but unfortunately the author made some extremely inaccurate claims when trying to prove his point. I’m going to address those points – both their fallacies and core facts.
Step 1 in building your mobile website is to determine your target audience
Focusing on mobile as a separate channel is a distraction that turns the platform into an either/or proposition that hurts results.
First off, it completely depends on the goal of the website. Many successful founders will even suggest some companies focus on mobile first and not even bother with a desktop presence. Secondly, some websites have functionality and flows that simply do not translate well to mobile. Third, it’s simply not feasible for larger websites to quickly rebuild from the ground up to offer a mobile presence via a responsive site. In the short term, providing a specific mobile version is suitable while the main site is overhauled. Claiming that not building a responsive site “hurts results” is an extreme overgeneralization that should simply be ignored.
The most important aspect of building a mobile website
“Mobile” as a separate marketing channel existed for about six months – somewhere back in 2009. It had an extremely short lifecycle because technology and user behavior caught up, waved a cheery hello and then raced right by.
I’ve been building mobile sites since 2001. I have no clue where the 2009 date comes from, but it has nothing to do with mobile sites not previously existing as a “separate marketing channel”.
The mobile and traditional Web separated initially because of slower processors, slower connection speeds and lousy displays. That distinction is disappearing – fast. [...] The only difference? Screen size. My phone still has a relatively small screen.
You need to think about form factor in your marketing, not mobile versus desktop.
That was true, back in 2001. As far as modern smartphones go, that hasn’t really been the case for years. There were methods to deal with slower processors, connections and screen sizes… all since at least 2001. In many cases, the displays on smartphones are higher quality than those on desktop computers (eg IPS vs TN panels.) Mobile devices clearly have smaller physical screens than most desktops or laptops.
However, the biggest distinction isn’t even touched on – usability. How a mobile device is used is vastly different than a desktop computer. The idea of “Think form factor, not mobility” is very misleading at best. Again, one has to look at the target for the site – will they be using the site on their smartphone while sitting at their desk? Most likely not. They will be using it as a mobile device. Their connection may not always be great, the lighting conditions may not be as controlled and the environment in which the site is used may be much more chaotic. Because of this, how data is passed and stored needs extra care. How much contrast you give a design is also important, as is font, graphic and button size to name a few. It’s not just about the size of the screen, it’s about how and where the site is used. Continue reading