Remember the good old days when you only had to worry about how your website looked and functioned on a computer? Today, though, more users are going mobile. Smartphones and mobile devices, like the iPod Touch or tablets, are becoming the preferred vehicle of access to the Internet, and it is expected that mobile use will outpace desktop use in just a few years. Designers have to look at making their sites attractive and usable for a variety of users; they have to look at what users can do on a mobile – as well as what they cannot.
Mobile access offers freedom and versatility, but there are tradeoffs in terms of restrictions and limitations. Screen size is the biggest hurdle, as is bandwidth. Smartphone users, in particular, may have slower connection speeds, but they also may have to contend with data caps. So, an accommodation designers need to make for mobile users is offering fewer images or formats like slideshows. Even desktop users are getting sick of slideshows; but mobile users just don’t have the capacity to handle them, and they will move on to a more streamlined site. Flash, too, is out.
Other features that are useful on desktops are not feasible for smartphones or tablets. These include scrollable areas in multiple panes, custom widgets and controls, and customized layouts. This last is important because the screen sizes for different mobile devices differ so greatly. When designers create a site that is meant to be viewed on a screen with X x Y amount pixels, it can create a poor user experience for those without the specified screen size. Likewise, you also need to be aware of the orientation of the page.
There is a lot to consider when designing sites, and you have to be able to accommodate a broad range of users. Having a site for desktop and one optimized for mobile may be the best way to provide the best experience for users.