It is always disappointing to visit a mobile optimised website or download an app to find the designer has been stuck in desktop web mindset. Its sad because the impact of the bad design is not just the waste of money and time. When a new initiative in a company, such as mobile is embarked upon, the decision makers are watching carefully. If it fails to wow, directors and management typical write off the entire mobile web platform. The number of times I have heard "Yeah, mobile, we tried that... it doesn't work. It is all hype". When looking into the detail I will nearly always discover the attempt made was with minimal budget, using staff with the wrong experience and nearly always without thinking of the difference between desktop web and mobile web interactivity.

It the late 90s and early 2000s the same mistake was made time and time again with print based advertising attempting to migrate to web without changing form.


Just because some smartphone browsers can support full HTML and the user can pinch and zoom to consume your content does not mean you can design a successful mobile site without considering what makes mobile different.

History is repeating itself, every time a new media format becomes mass media people forget that it is different and try to apply old rules. Every time there are those few who do not fall in this trap, and they achieve high growth, massive success and own the new media format. So learn from history, don't make the same mistakes, be the company that is successful.

The difference between mobile and desktop web is really very simple...

  • The screen is only a few inches
  • There is no mouse, instead the finger taps the screen, swipes the screen, or drags along the screen
  • It is hard to see certain parts of the screen when you touch it
  • The data connectivity is often over cellular networks which are slow
  • There is a camera
  • There is GPS location device and maps
  • You can move a device left or right or shake it and the accelerometer detects it
  • You can not upload files easily
  • Even thought the network is slow people love video on their phone
  • People scroll, they know how, they do it immediately

The biggest difference is the screen size and how the user interacts.

Mobile design needs simple navigation, finger friendly design and low graphic size. The leading smartphones all support CSS3 and much of HTML5 so use it to reduce your download sizes.

AuthorDave Martin