The good folks at Webdesigner Depot asked me and several other folks to share advice for web designers interested in making the leap to mobile apps. The result is a meaty rundown of mobile app design considerations for web designers.
There’s a common instinct to oversimplify mobile apps, to make them desktop lite. That’s wrong. We do everything on our phones these days, and every time you say, “People don’t want to do that on mobile,” you’re wrong. We’ve all had that experience where you go to a website on your smartphone, and you’re bumped to the mobile version of the site, where they’ve stripped out exactly the feature or content you’re looking for. Just because you’re on a small screen rarely means you want to do less. It’s like saying that just because a paperback book is smaller, we should remove chapters. Don’t confuse device content with intent.
What I’m saying is that I believe that in most cases, mobile apps and websites should have thematically similar content and features to their desktop cousins. The presentation and priority may very well change to fit mobile mindsets, but the content should almost always be the same. In fact, in many cases, the mobile versions should do more, because the devices are capable of more.…
For web designers, this means that you have to start thinking more flexibly about how to build websites. We’ve been doing it wrong for over 15 years, building websites only for desktop browsing. That’s not what the web was designed for. It was designed to be platform neutral, to be displayed on any kind of screen or device. You just don’t know how your website will be viewed now. There are a jillion devices all with different form factors that can access your website now, and that means it’s important to build websites that can adapt to any device. For most of us, this is a new way to think about building websites — it’s not a matter of generating a separate mobile website and a separate desktop website. Instead, it means building a single website that gracefully adapts to each device’s constraints and capabilities.
Incidentally, I’ll be talking about these very ideas in a keynote speech at Do It With Drupal this week. If you’re in Brooklyn, you should swing by for what promises to be a pretty sensational gathering of web and CMS smarties.