I was reading an article the other day which was titled 12 Outdated Web Features That Need to Disappear in 2014, not a bad article and most of which I agreed with entirely. The main point I had an issue with was the final point they made with relation to mobile devices. I quote:
“We call them “m.dot” sites, as in “m.facebook.com.” You’ll see this when a company redirects you to a mobile version of its site, rather than spending the time and money to design and develop a responsive website experience.” from – Rameet Chawla, Fueled
I did take exception to this a little. First of all if you take a look at m.facebook.com you will see that it is actually a mobile version of Facebook. You will probably also notice that a lot of time and effort has been put into ensuring that the site works well for the smallest of mobile devices.
But before I go any further, I suppose I need to explain why I have a bit of a problem with this.
It is because I see mobile technology, especially the miniaturized smart-phone variety, as having a fundamental design flaw. It’s called the ‘general user interface’ or GUI. Basically when you are taught anything about design in terms of the GUI, one of the basic requirements from a practical perspective is that humans need to be able to use it. That includes those with bad eyesight, fat fingers and people who are generally a bit clumsy.
It is also apparent to me, that this simply isn’t the case, many people really do struggle to use their smart-phones. Sometime it is a problem with the program they are using or perhaps if they are on the Internet it could be the website they are visiting. Those big fat fingers or maybe the poor eyesight lead them to press the wrong menu item, open up a link they didn’t intend to or a page they have no interest in. Sometimes people even type the wrong letters when trying to put their name into a form or other complicated tasks like that.
The truth is, yes some websites aren’t mobile friendly, but the real problem is not the website but the fact mobile screens are just too small. Going on the Internet, for example, is normally a visual experience where you want to see some nice images, watch a video or read the information on a website and have it all wrapped up in a stimulating, interesting and aesthetically pleasing format that is easy to navigate.
All of which is very difficult to achieve on a screen the size of a postage stamp unless the site has been stripped out which we all know can make it very bland and uninteresting simply so that a mobile can handle it, responsive design or otherwise.
The theme I use on this blog for example is supposed to be a responsive design, but the fact is it doesn’t really work that well. For now I am biding my time to see if the theme designers improve it’s responsive performance. I really like this design on a normal PC and quite frankly I am loathe to change it. So that leaves me the option of creating a more responsive subset or changing the theme completely. I think if I do anything, assuming nothing more is done for this theme, it will be to change the theme for another one. This is WordPress after all, so that will be relatively easy to do, but all because Smartphone screens are too small.
Now before you try to shoot me down in flames and and tell me I have it all wrong, that smart-phones are the best thing since sliced bread and sell in the millions. Then I know all that and I realize the gimmicky appeal of smart-phones has over ruled common sense design practices. I also know they can be very handy at times, especially if you want to make a phone call! (sorry I know sarcasm is the lowest form of wit)
Although I can’t help but notice the ads for new mobiles that are saying things like 30% more screen size or use this handy plastic pen so you don’t have to get your big fat fingers in the way (they don’t actually say that, but they should). And when I do I feel like saying….. I rest my case!
But to say everyone should drop their PC based web designs for a fully responsive one that works on every size screen is a bit rich for me. Especially when some companies have gone to great length to ensure that they have provided a perfectly reasonable alternative to their main website that does cater for the mobile market. And yes, that will normally be with a responsive design approach that can cater for iPads and smart-phones down to the smallest size by the way.
By retaining a less constrained website design that has been designed for PC based viewing, surely those companies have catered for all preferences and have not diluted the full web experience for those people that still prefer to surf the Internet on a device that is actually large enough see the design elements and has useful interface tools like a mouse to help them navigate the site.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not totally against responsive designs for mobile devices and actually I think if you don’t at least try and cater for the mobile market place then you are being a little shortsighted.
I am just saying why have one size fits all in all cases if its not necessary, what is actually wrong with m.dot sites? It strikes me that there is nothing wrong with them and that they provide a good solution to the mobile problem that simply requires a very simple switch over from one web address to another. No big deal.
Phew, glad I got that off my chest!
So….what do you think?