The web has exploded since its inception, and is a key component in any company's marketing. In recent years there has been an increasing shift from desktop viewing to mobile viewing, making mobile web design and development even more important.
The differences in designing for mobile viewing verses designing for desktop viewing relate mainly to usability and the user experience. We recommend that all of our clients' sites are mobile-compatible, so a visitor can view the entire site – or as appropriate a majority of that site – on a phone, on a web-enabled tablet and on a desktop computer.
The first component to good mobile web design is pretty basic – make sure it works. Code is not rendered the same way by every device or browser. There are going to be slight differences – spacing, font appearance, etc – but a good designer will ensure there is a consistent presentation of information and branding.
Desktop browsers and mobile devices browsers can render graphics, text and animated elements very differently. Care must be taken to ensure your site is functional – links work, navigation functions, and that it is actual able to be read.
It sounds basic, but mobile web design is extremely important. Morgan Stanley is predicting that mobile devices will surpass desktop usage by 2015.
The current best practice for web site development calls for "responsive design". This means that a web site should be coded to work on all browsers and devices, displaying the same file – with some rendering differences – in response to the device's display size and operating requirements.
The same web page file should load on your desktop monitor, your smart phone or your tablet. This is different from older development methods, which often utilized separate mobile sites and loaded an entirely new page or sub-site. While this improved functionality for mobile technology when it was new, if often made using things a bit more confusing, as the user experience at your desk was different than the experience on your phone.
Advances in technology and programming have allowed responsive design to become a reality, making the user experience very similar on a variety of devices.
It should be noted that, basically stated, Google considers a web site's "responsiveness" in its rankings. The search engine evaluates site content and usage, and having a responsive site helps to improve a page's rankings. While this is only one component in a web site's search engine optimization, it's an important factor to consider if you are considering a new web site design project.