“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”.

5 thoughts on ““Mobile” versus “Small Screen”

  1. 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)

  2. 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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