I work in a Medical Library and it has become very apparent that more academic students (especially medical students) are relying on mobile devices such as Ipads, tablets, and smartphones to access information on the web than ever before. Doctors are now using their tablets so much that lab coats are now made with larger pockets so they have a safe place to carry them!
These Mobile devices create a unique set of issues for web developers. For example, mobile devices come in a variety of shapes and sizes. A normal webpage may show up on one device just fine, but wind up terribly truncated and confusing on a smaller one. Furthermore, not all mobile devices support the same type of browser or have the needed amount of bandwidth to upload certain media. All in all, what looks great on someone’s laptop, can be a mess when they try to open it on their Iphone. In his tutorial, Responsive Web Design Demystified (http://www.elated.com/articles/responsive-web-design-demystified/), Matt Doyle describes what steps web developers can do to fix some of the problems that mobile devices create.
“Responsive” Web design (when used to its fullest) allows web builders to create web pages that “respond” to the device it is being viewed on. Essentially, with each new device, a webpage will adapt its layout, resize images or serve up lower-bandwidth images, simplify page elements, provide larger links and buttons, and detect and respond to other mobile features such as geolocation and device orientation. Doyle doesn’t go into too much detail about some of the more advanced techniques, but his tutorial does show some of the easiest and aesthetically pleasing techniques that web designers can utilize to make their devices more user friendly.
In his article, A User-Centered Approach To Web Design for Mobile Devices, Lyndon Cerejo goes over some of the pros and cons of creating a Mobile website at all. Siting that it might not be worth it at this time for many web designers to make the jump over to mobile web if the website in question is not something that most users would want to actually access through a mobile device in the first place. He suggests taking a hard look at the demographic of the website’s users before making any big changes, “to develop a mobile user experience that aligns to the needs and expectations of your targeted users, you must involve representative users and their feedback throughout the process. Direct input from your users through primary research methods like observing users, contextual interviews and focus groups will give you insights about their mobile behavior, including what they want to do on the mobile Web, and when and how they will use it.”
All in all, there are several things that a web designer must take into account before he creates a web page. It always comes down to: Who, what, when, where, and how.
Cerejo, L. (2011). A User-Centered Approach To Web Design for Mobile Devices. Smash Magazine. http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2011/05/02/a-user-centered-approach-to-mobile-design/#more-98560
Doyle, M. (2011). Responsive Web Design Demystified . Elated. http://www.elated.com/articles/responsive-web-design-demystified/