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Should I Make A Mobile Site?

This is a tougher question than it seems.Maybe I need to start by explaining the current state of the “mobile Internet.”  Over the past four or five years, many companies have created an entirely separate version of their web site that is catered to mobile devices such as smartphones. There were a couple of good reasons for this: (1) Most smartphones didn’t like Flash, which meant that anyone with a lot of cool animation on their web site needed a different way to present that information to mobile users. This got even worse when Apple more or less called Flash “broken” and refused to make any of their devices natively compatible. (2) Mobile devices didn’t do a good job of allowing users to zoom in or customize their experience. Type was often hard to read and using links was challenging. (3) Mobile users only used their devices for basic jobs, not full-on browsing.

Under these circumstances, building a mobile version of your web site made a lot of sense. But things have changed a lot in the last two years, and now I have to question whether the “mobile web” is all that different than the “regular web.” Here’s what’s changed: (1) Most web developers have foregone the use of Flash entirely. Even Adobe, the makers of Flash, seem cautious about its future. (2) Research In Motion, the makers of BlackBerry smartphones, have dropped the ball and their smartphones have fallen out of favor with the public. This is good news for web developers, because the BlackBerry’s web browser is problematic to say the least. (3) iPhone and Android devices browse the Internet just like a laptop, and people are using them as their primary means of connecting to the web.

iPads and the Kindle Fire have made this even more hazy. Their larger screens are quickly propelling them ahead of laptops, and they occupy a weird space that is somewhere between the mobile and traditional Internet experience.

In fact, as more and more people use the Internet on their mobile devices, the overall line between the “mobile” and “traditional” webs has blurred significantly. That’s why I’m not sure a mobile version of your web site is necessary anymore. Instead, you need to prepare your web site to be viewed in a number of different ways. Maybe that should be the new definition of “mobile web” – a site that is mobile enough to be viewed on a smartphone, a tablet or a computer.

So there it is – you probably don’t need to build two versions of your web site anymore. On the other hand, if your web site isn’t made to be flexible, it’s time for an update.