Going mobile? You should be

30 May Going mobile? You should be

There are now more mobile device on the planet than people.  The era of desktop computing has been drawing to a close for some years now with people increasingly moving to laptop computers. I think it is fair to say, the days desktop and laptop computers being the primary Internet devices are over.

[Tweet “No escaping it, mobile browsing is fast becoming the most important consideration for your website.”]

The numbers

According to the Office Of National Statistics, in 2013, 61% of adults in the UK had used mobile phones, tablets or laptops to access the Internet away from home or work. Almost all 16 to 24 year olds, 94%, had used a mobile phone or portable device to access the Internet.

The most popular device used to access the Internet ‘on the go’ was a mobile phone, with over half of all adults, 53% to be exact, accessing the Internet this way. This has more than doubled since the 2010 estimate of 24%.

It is clear that people’s habits are changing and changing fast. Data from the analyst company IDC shows a clear shift away from traditional devices like desktops and laptops. With mobile phones removed from the equation, tablets accounted for 42% of device sales in 2013.

pc shipments 2013

The IDC expects tablets to claim more than 50% of shipments in 2015 and by 2017 they expect tablets to account for 56% of new device shipments.

pc shipments predicted 2017

If you need any more evidence as to the importance of mobile browsing, just look around you. Look at the people sat next to you on the bus, the man sitting opposite you in Starbucks. Look at your family sat around the television. There is no escaping it, mobile browsing is fast becoming the most important consideration for your website.

History & the status quo of mobile

In the early days of mobile websites, you would build a dedicated mobile site for mobile users. This site had its own content, layouts, design and URLs. Although there are still some merits to a dedicated mobile approach, many are now favouring newer technology and techniques to deliver mobile optimised content.

It is at this point that we enter an unfortunate “grey area”. Current mobile web design terminology is not uniformly agreed upon but for arguments sake, there are two main camps. Adaptive Web Design (AWD) and Responsive Web Design (RWD). In very simple terms, AWD decides what layout to send to a device based on its fingerprint. RWD, on the other hand, allows content to flow and rearrange dynamically based on the screen size of the user’s browser. Again, in simple terms, AWD is handled by your web server and RWD is handled by the user’s browser.

Responsive vs. Adaptive

Adaptive web design will usually rely on two or more distinct templates. As such design costs are higher as each platform requires its own set of designs.


Responsive on the other hand, uses the same design and content and reorders and scales that content for different screen sizes. This approach requires less additional design work when compared to AWD.

The easiest way to see if a website uses RWD is to reduce the width of your browser window and watch what happen. If content shrinks and drops into a single column, then you are looking at a responsive site.


Which route suits you best?

Adaptive web design is great for really being in control of exactly how your visitors experience your site. You can target devices specifically by make and even model. So if you want to have one experience for iPhone users and another for Android handsets, this is completely possible.

Of course this diversity comes at a price. Sites using AWD initially require far more design and development time. You will also then need to maintain more templates and stay on top of new devices as they enter the market.

Responsive web design on the other hand, is far more cost effective to setup and requires very little on-going development once it is deployed. For most small to medium businesses, this is probably the best solution.

A third way?

So what if you have a particular element of user experience and design that calls for AWD while the rest of your site could quite easily be supported by a responsive site? Many sites take this blended approach using a mixture of server-side and client-side features to deliver effective mobile experiences.

As with any online project, find yourself a good team of developers and sit down to work out what your goals are and what approach will help you meet them.

If you want to talk to us about implementing a mobile strategy, get in touch.

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