The Mobile Solutions Cage Match
Responsive design vs. Other mobile solutions. Who will win? It’s the mobile solutions cage match!
Corner #1: Stick Your Zombie Head in the Sand
Your site has been online since 1994. It worked then and it works now. You don’t want to hear anything else about this.
Well, by all means, stick your head in the sand and wait out the zombie apocalypse. If you haven’t seen a drop in traffic already, you may never, but you’ll also never see a spike. This is by far the cheapest option, but unless you’re Craigslist (and even they have a mobile-optimized version), this is probably also the riskiest. In 2016, smartphone and tablet traffic accounted for 51.3% of worldwide internet traffic. If more than half of your customers don’t get a website that looks great on whatever device they’re using, do you think they’ll stick around?
Corner #2: Ninja Native Apps
Native apps provide full access to all device capabilities and, like ninjas, let you do some moves you didn’t even know were physically possible. The downside? Your user has to actually know about (and want) your native app.
How many times have you been fighting the good zombie-resisting fight doing some research on your phone or tablet, and instead of getting the site you want, you get prompted to download some app? I just want to access the razza-frackin’ information, I do NOT want to download your stupid app of stupidity that is stupid personified in stupid APP FORM! (You’re probably far less colorful in your reactions.)
The other downside is that the web is gaining more and more device capabilities, and like a ninja who’s been pounding down the Ho Hos, native apps are losing their edge. While a web app will never be as fast as a native app (though the speed gap is closing), the frictionless loading of a web app in the browser makes the finding, downloading, and opening initial experience of the native app feel as cumbersome as trying to find Aunt Myrtle’s cold cream in a closet full of mayonnaise. Unless you have specific and/or special functionality that only a native app can provide or penetration that’s the envy of your competitors, a native app by itself—ninjutsu master though it may be—probably isn’t the right choice.
Corner #3: The Twin Pirates of a “Regular” Site and a “Mobile” Site
In this scenario, you can optimize content code and eyepatches for the type of website you’re reaching. You also have the freedom to make them as different as they need to be. You can go Blackbeard crazy on your mobile site, and the respectable Edward Teach of your desktop site will be none the wiser.
But then, you have two separate code bases. Found an egregious typo? You’ve got to remember to fix it in both places. Did someone find an article on peg-leg care so awesome, they want to share it? Great! Except they found it on the mobile site and shared it on the Jolly Roger network with all their desktop-loving friends, who then get a website optimized for the wrong device. Have someone on a tablet? Should they get the mobile site or the regular one? Who really knows?
Corner #4: Zombie-Destroying Responsive Design
The go-to solution for many a Human Resistance cell, Responsive Design, allows you to keep a single code base (you only need to fix that typo once), provides an immediate solution for ninja app sites (even if you have an app too), and always shows the version of the site optimized for that screen size. (Did you expect something else to win the cage match? This is a responsive design course, after all…)
So, now that you’ve definitively decided to use responsive design as your mobile solution, let’s dig into some of its nitty-gritty building blocks. Next up: “Hand-to-HTML Combat and Other Prerequisites.”
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