A funny thing happened from around 2010. The number of people using their mobile phones to browse the web shot up dramatically. That was 10 years ago, and we now that, for the majority of websites, mobile traffic far outweighs traffic from a desktop computer. But with all the design elements that came with being mobile friendly, some websites still got lost in a world of over-design, and forgetting that mobile phones exist.
One of the problems that comes with website designers, is that we all use desktop computers to do our web designing. So, we create these websites to look gorgeous on a computer, but then we adjust that for mobile screens as a kind of afterthought. After all, there’s also a good chance that the client will be viewing the website on their computer as well, and may not even check the mobile layout until a customer lets them know that it’s a bit of a mess.
The idea that you could design a website, first for mobile, and then, for desktop, is still not that common amongst web designers. Armed with page builders like Divi & Elementor on WordPress, or using the tools in Wix, Squarespace and others, web designers are essentially graphic designers who take their design aesthetic from Canva and Photoshop and apply that to the broader scope of a website.
This is where the danger is. When you have a certain “look” that you tend to repeat again and again, it’s hard to move beyond that, especially when someone is asking for something a little different… like building a site for mobile browsing first.
So how exactly do you build a website that fits a client’s brief, but also works for all devices equally as well.
First up, you as a client, need to stipulate how you want your website to work – and the developer should be asking this as well.
Do you know whether people are more likely to be using your website while on a laptop computer or a mobile phone? If you sell to other businesses who tend to be in offices, then chances are your visitors are going to be office-bound computer users. But if your customers are individual consumers or the kinds of business customers that are working on the road, or on a construction site, then chances are that they will be on a mobile phone.
Once you’ve decided this, you can then look at how you wish to display your site to mobile viewers and desktop viewers.
Do you wish to show them the same site layout, just with the mobile version scaling everything down and stacking the content in order? This is called responsive design. It allows the site to display the same site design on all sizes of screen, based on what percentage of the width each element is told to take. It’s what most websites are built like now.
But what if you are looking for a completely different look on your website depending on where it is being viewed. This is actually possible using an adaptive design. And it does take more time to build, as you’re essentially building multiple layouts for multiple devices.
Say, you want a layout for desktop that takes full advantage of the more powerful computer running it along with bigger images and more multimedia – this can be done.
But on that same site, you don’t want to display quite as much heavy text content on a tablet. You can do that as well.
And on the mobile, you’re looking to make the layout as much like an app as possible, so you can simplify the finding of information and things like contact details – even turning phone numbers in to tap-to-call buttons.
This is done through setting the visibility of each block or even each element to be visible on different types of devices. For example, if your developer has told you that your website is being built in the Divi platform on WordPress, then it’s using a setting called “Visibility” to set what each element, or module is designed to show on. It means that you can form a completely set of content and design elements on three different types of device – a computer, a tablet and a mobile phone.
All in all, you can have a traditional looking website on a desktop and something that looks more like an app on a phone, despite not needing to build an app.
The important question to start with is, what do you know about how people will likely use your website? Are they mobile workers or office-based? Are they consumer or business visitors? And, what kind of content is your website going to contain, based upon what it is that you want your business to achieve as a result of having a website.