Best Practices on Mobile-Friendly Websites

Recently, clients have been asking us to build their site so it performs well on a mobile device.  Websites and mobile friendly is also currently a huge topic among designers and programmers. Since I write for non-techies, I’ll keep it simple. If you are a techie, I’ll post to links at the bottom from my sources.

There two options available at the moment.

1. Building one website and making it responsive to the device or platform its on so it adjusts into a readable or “friendly” format.

2. Building a separate website for cell phones and possibly other separate websites for other devices.

We here at FOW are choosing option #1, though we acknowledge there are times when a separate site could be warranted.

The downside of a separate mobile website is that it creates another set of content to keep up-to-date. Consequently (and for other reasons as well), many mobile sites present only a sub-set of the information on the main website. Someone will decide what “most mobile users will want to see,” and that’s all the mobile site will include to keep it easier to update. But too often the guesses are wrong about what content the mobile phone user is looking for. To quote Bruce Lawson, “you never know better than your users what content they want.”

Though, I would add “or how they want to view it.”

What bothers us about much of the mobile web and responsive web discussion is the idea that we can automatically anticipate how people want to view a website, so can remove that control from them. On the contrary, the most important part of any mobile website is that link over to the full website, just like the most important part of any “responsive” website is a link to cancel the responsive features.


Users want and need the two “cons” – content and control. Remove content by offering only the content you assume mobile users want, or remove control by assuming you know how users want to view that content, and you are delivering frustration to your users.

Want to read some more:

Why We Shouldn’t Make Separate Mobile Websites by Bruce Lawson

This article on Responsive Web Design by Ethan Harcotte from A List Apart (one of the most respected web design blogs) is considered one of the seminal statements. It’s a good reference if people want to read a bit more on the subject, though it gets a bit technical.


Responsive Websites

Karen Nierlich is an internet marketing consultant with Full Orbit Web and Marketing. If you want to discuss mobile friendly or responsive sites, or other topics related to web development or internet marketing, call Karen at FOW at 510-527-9920.

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