Mobile website development is a hot topic these days – but let's not kid ourselves here; it's been a hot topic for many years at this point. The problem is that it has taken many years for the majority of mobile device platforms to get to a level playing field where web developers can actually say “Yes, we can present a full experience to all our website visitors, regardless of the platform used.”
Let's take a step back for a second.
It used to be enough to present a popular, mobile-version website with textual (and sometimes graphical) links to the major articles that the full, desktop-version site offers and the mobile visitors would be happy. Those times are long behind us. With the advent of smarter, faster and more versatile mobile devices, mobile internet users expect everything. Sure, the latest iOS device (iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad, iWhatHaveYou) may still lack Flash support, but that doesn't mean your website should disregard this supposed inconvenience.
No, sir – or madam! Your site needs to be just as versatile as the devices surfing it.
Mobile devices are basically as fast as the last computer you owned.
Unless you're the gotta-have-the-bleeding-edge-technology type, you know that the above statement is true; at least for the life of this blog post! Today's mobile devices are sporting dual-core processors, dedicated video accelerators and high definition cameras, making the phones of even last year look like toys. The person who used to swear they never wanted to own a computer still doesn't own that computer; but they are likely to own a smartphone, or a tablet, or a smart TV. You simply cannot deny the need to consider mobile-ready content for your website any longer.
Most of your website content is probably already compatible.
That's right. Most mobile devices on the market right now will present your current website's content in a very usable fashion. Apple innovated in this space early on with their mobile Safari browser. Their now nearly universal method of double-tapping your mobile device display to zoom in a specific paragraph of text or image made viewing desktop-formatted content on mobile devices a pleasant experience. Every single mobile device since has attempted to mimic this behaviour to some degree of success, meaning that you can count on most of your site displaying correctly to your visitors.
Flash and other multimedia plugins are where your main compatibility concerns should lay.
Let’s just put this right out there: using Flash exclusively for any critical piece of content on your website is a bad idea. You may be saying “…but my Android smartphone supports Flash!”, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a good decision to use Flash. Today, there are many more choices when it comes to displaying this type of content to your visitors; choices that will bring a smile to your visitors’ faces when they realize they can experience all your site has to offer, regardless of the device they are viewing it from.
In Part 2 of this article I will discuss the various methods for creating universally compatible web content by taking the ideas I spoke about here and producing real-world examples for you to absorb.