Is your website optimized for mobile technology? An overview of Mobile Development for the Masses

Few things are more frustrating for a mobile user than trying to view a website that is not optimized for mobile devices.  With growing trends in mobile technology, it is important for businesses to develop content that is easily accessible from various mobile devices.  Dustin Tauer’s session at the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce provided a great overview of mobile content development.  During this seminar, Dustin discussed a variety of methods that businesses can use to deploy content that is mobile-device ready.

Where do I Start?

When discussing content creation for mobile devices, the first thing most people think of is Mobile Applications.  However, many people are pleasantly surprised to find that you don’t necessarily have to jump right into mobile app development.  Dustin reviewed a number of options ranging from simple and cost effective to complex and well…not quite so cost effective.

The cheapest option of course is to do nothing and wait for this “mobile revolution thing” to die out.  You know… in the same way that Hammer-pants died out in the 90s (for what it’s worth, I saw in the Omaha World Herald recently that Hammer pants are making a comeback. Can you say HAMMER TIME?!)  However, since it’s not likely that ‘this mobile revolution thing’ is going to die out anytime soon, here are some options if you’re ready to embrace this growing technology.

Adaptive design: Adaptive design is going to be the most cost effective and least labor intensive option.  Adaptive design involves tailoring existing website content for viewing on a variety of mobile devices.  Essentially this involves creating several web page layouts that are optimized for varying screen sizes (ie: iPad, SmartPhone, etc).   While this option allows you to define and tailor how your site appears on different devices, it does require you to know which screen sizes and devices you’re targeting in advance.

Responsive Design:   Responsive design is like Adaptive Design on steroids.  Like adaptive design, responsive design allows you to restyle/reuse existing website content.  However, with responsive design your website will be optimized for any and all potential screen dimensions.  Responsive design ensures content and images wrap and adjust automatically so the mobile user has the optimal viewing experience no matter what screen size they’re using.  In other words, as a developer you don’t have to pre-determine which screen sizes you’re targeting like you do with adaptive design.   One of the benefits of responsive design is it provides a degree of future proofing since the web page content will work on any screen size, which is great because new devices are constantly being developed.  Spark Box’s website is a great example of responsive design.   To see responsive design in action, slowly resize the Spark Box web page window and notice how the images and text adjust and wrap to conform to the size of the window.

Web application: Web applications are essentially a web page designed specifically for optimal viewing on a mobile device.   This option differs from adaptive and responsive design in that it does NOT repurpose existing website content.  With this option, when a mobile user tries to access a web page from their mobile device, the user is redirected to the mobile optimized  web application.  Since a web app is accessible from any web browser, it is platform independent.   This means that you don’t need to develop separate versions for iOS, Android, or Windows Phone because the mobile user is simply viewing a website.   Twitter is good example if you want to view the difference between a mobile optimized web application vs. a  primary website.  Another good example is KARE11’s primary website vs. their mobile web site

Native Application:   A Native Application provides the potential for the sleekest mobile experience possible.  Native apps allow you to take advantage of the full capabilities of the mobile device and the ability to incorporate device specific technologies, such as the compass, built-in camera and gyroscope.  Each platform requires it’s own platform-specific development, so this option can be fairly labor intensive and costly, but again it has the potential to provide a great user experience.

So which one is right for you?  Stay tuned till next week and we’ll discuss the pros and cons of each option.

If you have questions about mobile development options, contact us at and we’ll get you going in the right direction.


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