27 Apr 2011 11 am eastern

“Mobile” versus “Small Screen”

As we try to become more responsive with our designs, a lot of attention has been focused on providing “mobile” styles. We’ve all been adding viewport meta tags to our templates and @media screen and (max-device-width: 480px) to our stylesheets.

It’s very tempting (and scope-friendly) to tell a client that we can adjust their site for mobile users, when much of the time what we’re actually doing is simply adjusting a design for small screens.

…Simply adjusting a design for a smaller screen and calling it “mobile” does a disservice to both mobile users and developers. Making link targets bigger and image sizes smaller does help the mobile user, but it only addresses the surface issues of usability and readability. It doesn’t address their need to do things easily and quickly.

via It’s the Little Things – “Mobile” versus “Small Screen”.

Filed under: Code, Compatibility, Design, Responsibility, Responsive Web Design, Standards, State of the Web, Usability, User Experience, UX, Web Design, Web Design History, Web Standards

5 Responses to ““Mobile” versus “Small Screen””

  1. Tanner Christensen said on

    Amen. But wait a second, I thought we were all pursuing fluid designs now, you know… to work on any size screen without having to optimize for one or the other?

  2. Josh Rucker said on

    You mean I don’t really care your twitter feed when I’m on my iPhone and I just need a phone number or address. That’s crazy! ;)

  3. Donnie Bachan said on

    Thanks for saying this! Hopefully people will start listening. I’ve been harping on about this for years….maybe I need to stop harping!

  4. Tim Wright said on

    I think it’s more of a communication issue with the client at that point where most people don’t yet understand “small screen” so it’s easier to say “mobile”. Not saying whether it’s right or wrong, but I think that’s where we are.

    But I reality, I think there’s a much larger problem to solve in the process of “tacking on” or “mobilizing”, just like any new hot topic be it, (when they were new and hot) accessibility, usability testing, etc, they’re always thrown to the end of the design process until they’re later integrated early on.

    I think regardless, if we continue to think of mobile and small screen as an alternative or competitor to the desktop we’ll consistently fail. Your “mobile” or “small screen” design is something that would just happen if we’re designing scalable sites and are truly thinking with responsive design in might from the start.

    My apologies, this is sort of a gigantic conversation for a comment box. If anyone here is attending An Event Apart – Boston next week and would like to get more into it, please let me know (@csskarma)

  5. Steve Crozier said on

    This raises an interesting issue for me. If mobile users need to do things “easily and quickly,” then what do those old-fashioned web users need? Difficult and slow?

    Sure, the obvious answer is that we can provide a “richer” experience on the web, whatever that might mean. But the consideration of mobile design does open up a new perspective on web design. Or maybe an old perspective. How different is Google mobile than Google web? Not all that much. Maybe Google’s minimalist approach has been right from the get-go.

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