Mobile baby steps

On December 29, Jeffrey Zeldman started a great conversation about mobile web design. He noted some gnashing of teeth by Stephanie Rieger and Marc Drummond, who were lamenting the challenges in designing for the wide range of Android OS versions and devices that are out there, and how responsive design breakpoints are not a silver bullet design solution (and may even be “dead”).

Rieger and Drummond are not alone in picking apart the challenging nuances of designing for the mobile web. But as my response suggests, I fear that some designers who analyze and write about the mobile web may be unnecessarily scaring others away from trying anything at all in the mobile space. By making acceptable mobile design seem more and more complex, some people are likely to just throw their hands up and try nothing at all.

And the fact is, many designers and companies are not doing anything to optimize for mobile (I’ve seen statistics as high as 70% of the web being mobile-hostile). Whereas optimizing for just one mobile platform, iOS, means that you’re delivering mobile-friendly web content to over half of people who browse the web on-the-go.

Mobilizing Web SitesThis is the premise of my latest book: taking mobile baby steps is better then doing nothing at all*. Because let’s face it, making some navigation, layout, and text sizing changes that can get your web content to over half of all mobile web browsers is a pretty strong start to mastering mobile web optimization. Moreover, the techniques and examples in my book were all thoroughly tested on older versions of Android, too, meaning that giving these methods a try gets you well over the 50% mark and into the 60th and 70th percentiles.

Granted, 50-70% is not everyone. But it’s a solid start, and well above 0%. So take a progressive approach to mobile design. Start small, yet leap ahead by at least designing for iPhone and Android smartphones. And as you refine your design and content, add additional breakpoints in your media queries, and continue to learn other design and performance techniques, you can stretch that reach even further as your progressive enhancements continue to accumulate.

Don’t think you need to go from crawling to running in one giant step. Baby steps are just fine, and some of the most important ones you’ll ever make.

* – Luke Wroblewski elaborates on my idea of mobile baby steps in a most eloquent foreword to Mobilizing Web Sites.


2 thoughts on “Mobile baby steps

  1. Great post, and excellent points about the volatility of the design landscape right now. As an Internet Marketing teacher, it’s difficult at times to know which strategy to recommend to my students for site design changes and overall usability enhancements as the entire world shifts further into mobile usage. The advice to take the “baby steps” is the best one I’ve seen though: it helps to get one familiar with their existing site and its capabilities before dumping it altogether. Can’t wait to check out the book.

  2. Such useful advice, since baby steps are great at demystifying things like this.

    And the best part may be that, when it comes to mobilizing a desktop website, a couple baby steps often take you much further than expected.

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