GoWeb began as GoMobile in 2012 as a grassroots initiative to encourage all of the website creators at Texas A&M University to consider creating responsive, mobile-friendly websites.
To encourage the community to “go mobile”, we established the following content to provide context to our strategy and how to begin creating mobile first websites.
Texas A&M’s Mobile Position Statement
Mobile technologies increase access to knowledge resources, foster collaborative interactions and support Texas A&M University’s mission to meet the evolving educational and societal needs of the state, nation and world. The university supports mobile technologies that enable and empower users to access information effectively regardless of device type.
Texas A&M’s Mobile Strategy Statement
Texas A&M University supports mobile web technologies that simplify keeping pace with a rapidly evolving mobile landscape. These technologies must be:
- Device agnostic – compatible with any web-capable mobile device
- Platform independent – usable by applications written in any language and on any environment
- Easy to use – simple to deploy and maintain
1. Responsive Web Design (RWD): Recommended for all university websites.
A responsive website automatically rearranges content to optimize viewing according to screen size. RWD sites work on all devices, including desktops, tablets and smartphones, providing easy, effective access to information.
Bootstrap and Foundation are good starting points for building an RWD site.
2. Standalone Mobile Site: Very few departments need a standalone mobile site.
A mobile site is a standalone, separate version of a website. The concept of having a mobile version of your website is largely outdated – there is no reason to create a parallel site when the same content can be made mobile-friendly through responsive design.
However, IF if you have content that is viewed by an almost exclusively mobile audience, there can be value in having a targeted site for people who want quick access to specific content in a mobile-friendly format. For example, on-the-go users may need to access specific information (look at bus schedules or maps) or complete quick tasks (buy tickets or make an appointment). Most organizations will probably not need to create such a dedicated site. Take the Mobile Website Quiz to find out if you need a separate mobile site.
3. Mobile Apps: Not recommended, except for applications that use specific cell phone hardware. Vendor-provided, no-charge apps are not discouraged.
A mobile app (or native app) is device-specific software (iPhone, Android, etc.) that is downloaded from an app store, such as the Apple app store or Android Market. Mobile apps are built to perform specific tasks (interactive games or online banking) and can use a cell phone’s camera, GPS, accelerometer and other hardware. Development and maintenance costs are usually high. Updating an app requires app store approval, and the user must download the new version onto their device. Mobile apps can be considered in some cases when security of data is an issue.
Comparison of Features
|Responsive Website||Mobile Website||Mobile App|
Easy to update content
Accessible to all; no installation required
No need to download new version to upgrade
Content discoverable through search
User experience similar on different mobile platforms
Lower cost/time to develop
Full website content provided
Only need to update one site
Uses phone capabilities – camera, accelerometer
How to Think Mobile First
Experts in the fields of user experience, interface design and web design are beginning to embrace the concept of building sites “mobile-first,” that is, building every website from the ground up with the needs and considerations of mobile users at the forefront. When a website is built “mobile-first,” it tends to scale up to a desktop smoothly, while being immediately compatible with the increasingly large percentage of users accessing a website on mobile devices and tablets.
The key to building a website “mobile-first” is recognizing that the user interacts with a smaller screen with just their fingers on a device with limited performance and capabilities. The considerations made to accommodate these users should become the first step in the website construction process.
Considerations to Remember:
Fingers are Big and Clumsy
Finger touches require more pixels on the screen and are much less precise than a mouse. Buttons and other screen objects without sufficient surface area can cause mis-navigation. This frustrates the user.
Scrolling and Zooming are Pesky
Websites not built to display correctly on mobile devices often require the user to pinch, zoom or scroll horizontally to click buttons or to even read the text. This frustrates the user.
People On-the-go Prefer Concise Content
Large blocks of text that do not contribute useful information take too long to read. Sifting through this text to find the specific details wastes time. This frustrates the user.
Mobile Networks Are Not Always Reliable, Fast or Unlimited
Whether the user is connecting via Wi-Fi hotspots or their cellular data connection, they are not guaranteed to have an always-on or speedy connection. They might even be billed extra for excessive data consumption. Pages with large images or too much content can take too long to load. This frustrates the user.
Mobile Devices are Extraordinarily Diverse
Whereas computers and monitors have standardized on a few screen sizes, resolutions and aspect ratios, almost each new phone uses a new resolution, radio or density. Websites built to look “pixel-perfect” often look incorrect on many devices. This frustrates the user.
1. Think Mobile First.
2. Use well-structured, meaningful markup.
3. The absence of support for @media queries is in fact the first @media query.
5. Adapt content (especially images) appropriately for each device.
6. Compress content where possible and don’t include unnecessary data.
From “Rethinking the Mobile Web,” Brian Rieger, www.slideshare.net/bryanrieger/rethinking-the-mobile-web-by-yiibu.
Think you also need a separate mobile website? First, take the Mobile Website Quiz!
Mobile Website Quiz
1. Do you have specialized content that is often accessed on the go?
2. Is the specialized content better presented in an abbreviated format?
3. Do you have developers on your team who can create a separate mobile website?
4. Are your content managers willing to update two independent and separate websites?
5. Have you evaluated the advantages of a responsive website and specifically decided that it is not sufficient for all of your needs?
If you have answered “No” to any of these questions, you only need a responsive website. Visit our Responsive Web Design section to get started!
If you have answered “Yes” to ALL five questions, you may benefit from building and maintaining a separate mobile-only website in addition to a responsive primary site. Find out about using the Texas A&M Mobile Web Framework.