When we talk about website design, it’s generally assumed that we’re talking about a singular thing; a website is a website. In reality, though, developing a desktop site is different from constructing a mobile-friendly page, and many businesses will eventually add an app to their mobile arsenal.
So if the aims of desktop, mobile, and app-based web design are essentially the same, what actually sets them apart – and what does it take to translate content between formats? Whether you’re building a new site or just giving your old site a design boost, here’s what you need to know to effectively reinterpret content and features across different web formats.
Desktop And Mobile: Hand-In-Hand
In most ways, desktop and mobile websites are quite similar. They typically contain all the same pages and information, allow users to access shared features such as accounts or interactive tools, and provide a similar aesthetic angle onto a brand. In fact, besides the introduction of new privacy concerns, many of the core differences between desktop and mobile sites are predicated on factors like screen size and adjustments made around smaller navigational space and operating system variations.
Still, despite their similarities, not all web designers are equally skilled at building mobile and desktop sites, particularly if their area of expertise is graphics rather than SEO. “Customers should always ask about mobile site creation design when hiring a designer,” says Shmuel Aber of The Saber Team. This is in order to avoid designers who can’t bring in mobile traffic. You’ll pay more if you need separate designers for two fundamentally similar sites.
The Mobile-First Paradigm
Just a few years ago, mobile websites were a second thought. Companies designed a site and then built in a redirect for mobile users. This could sacrifice some functions, such as video, but it was workable at a time when most people didn’t own smartphones. Now though, ten years since the introduction of the iPhone, mobile has taken the lead and Google is introducing new ranking paradigms to reflect this.
Under Google’s mobile-first framework, the search engine will consider factors like page load time and responsiveness specifically as they apply to mobile pages, rather than exclusively ranking sites based on desktop performance. Before, companies could rest on the laurels of a strong desktop ranking, but now they need to be aware of how these platforms perform.
Finally, when it comes to the desktop-mobile divide, marketing concerns should be a core design consideration. Specifically, companies should ask the question, do desktop and mobile pages facilitate sales with equal ease?
With more clients making purchases through mobile devices every year, it’s important to track your own patterns. Third-party cookies don’t work on mobile, though, so talk to your web design team about how you can most effectively link cross-device engagement and how certain customers can make mobile purchases easily. When customers need to shift from one to platform to the other in order to execute basic activities, there’s a serious problem with your mobile site.
Mobile Pages Or Mobile Apps?
In this app-centric era, many companies assume they can avoid the challenges of translating their website into a mobile site by just building an app. People prefer apps anyway, they’ll reason. The reality, though, is that unless there’s a specific problem an app can solve, you shouldn’t build one.
Mobile apps are great in a lot of ways because they rely on an entirely different framework than mobile webpages. Many can be used offline, they may be faster than a mobile page, and it can be much easier to build in added features, keep customers logged into their accounts, and offer other conveniences to users.
Of course, apps aren’t always beneficial, despite their convenience. Users have to download them separately from an app store, they may cost money, and the need to download an app can derail sales interactions. Additionally, companies typically need to hire separate app designers to create these programs, incurring added cost, whereas a traditional web design can make simple modifications to the basic web design so that it’s suitable for mobile access.
In today’s sales environment, your business absolutely needs desktop and mobile sites, but apps remain optional. To determine whether you need to make the leap to an app, the key is to understand what isn’t coming across on mobile and whether an app could put greater functionality in your client’s hands. Whatever you decide, if customers have ready mobile device-based access to your services, you have the potential to be competitive. It’s just a matter of content translation.