It has been more than three years since mobile users started to outnumber desktop use when it comes to internet browsing. Through all that time, mobile users have already changed cellphones, some have changed more than once, compared to desktop users who will only now be at the end of their equipment use cycle. That should give non-technical advertising people some pause while they understand the impact of the PC buying cycle.
Besides the buying cycle, there is the immediacy of using a cellphone to access the internet. It is always on and in the hands of the user. While using a map to navigate, mobile users can also check out an online app to pull data from the internet. This has made cellphone use pervasive as well.
Website design companies understand that there has been a paradigm shift. What is not too obvious is that the paradigm is still shifting, and there are still some issues to iron out.
Shifting to Responsive Design
The concept of responsive design is a simple and elegant solution to accommodate all internet users. Using only one code and design, the website adjusts itself to the device making the request. When the user first requests for a website, the device also sends certain information, specifically the screen resolution, and operating system. The resolution coupled with the operating system are enough for the server to know that it is a mobile device.
The website code is based on these initial information. For a desktop user, the code will be for desktops. For mobile device users, the code will be for mobile devices. This has resulted in navigation changes, and menu placements which appear different for different devices.
Of course, there are some websites which should have been responsive, but the rendered page is no different from one device to another. This is usually due to the use of a switch in the code, which states that the responsive part of the code will not be used. Some WordPress sites are guilty of this mistake.
Responsive design is only the first step. Now with more mobile users than desktop visitors, the emphasis should be mobile first. However, there are those who have a bias to designing with the desktop first. The developer cannot be blamed, because he is using a desktop to create the page. That bias will not be easy to break. The tools are already on the mobile device, but it is still a lot better working on the desktop rather than on a smartphone.
However, the intent is there and developers as a whole understand that the tool is not the primary client. Designing for mobile first is a direct result of the change in the main or primary user device.
The next step is the app. Not all websites, or companies online have an app. Admittedly, doing so would be an overkill, as not all websites would work well with an app. If it was an ecommerce site, an app would help. If the site was updated daily and it had interesting content, an app would work fine. If the site had lots of users which had to login to use their page an app would be appropriate. However, if the website is just a showroom, which was updated only every other week, or month, with few returning visitors, then an app would be a waste of time and money.
However, if the site can make use of an app, it would entice more return visits. The visitors would no longer look at it as a website, but as an app. They would not need to go to a browser and login to the site, the site would be accessed by the dedicated app.
Website development has been evolving since the world wide web was put up. The changes and innovations in the more than 20 years since the first website has shown that the users matter and that viewership and readership are the only things that should matter. Going mobile is not yet finished, but also an ongoing process.