All hail the adaptable web


The responsive web meme was kicked off by Ethan Marcotte's excellent post of the same name. In his post, Ethan describes how media queries can be used to build sites with the ability to hide elements for smaller screen sizes. For example to create an iphone-specific styling you could use the following CSS:

  1. @media screen and (min-width: 321px) { /\* do something for iphones in landscape \*/}

But the responsive web isn't good enough to take us where we need to go to create a beautiful mobile-optimized site.  Jason Grigsby does a good job summarizing the problems with the responsive web.  In an article titled Media Queries are Fool's Gold he shows that media queries are not a panacea for solving mobile optimization. The crux of his argument is that this approach reduces content for mobile, and does nothing to optimize it.  Furthermore, there are serious technical limitations.  If you're using media queries to show high-resolution images specific for desktop, then those will be downloaded on mobile even if they aren't displayed. But if the responsive web is fool's gold, Jason's proposed solution of custom built web mobile sites is an abandoned mine... with a lot of toxic cleanup left to do.

Custom mobile development is a dead end for content or brand sites.  Building a good one (think Amazon, or Ebay) requires a similar design/content work-effort as creating a desktop site. Often they require their own backend. Content gets fragmented.  Maintenance is a nightmare.  And then a new device comes along that changes everything.

The future is the adaptable web -- and it's like the responsive web, only turned up to 11.  In the adaptable web, it's not about hiding content from mobile users, it's about remixing everything in your site.

Let's take a step back and look at the future of adapting content. Adapting content for different types of devices is not going to be just a temporary phenomenon limited to our current transition period of new devices.  With the flurry of announcements in the past few months of a number of new tablet style devices, not to mention the launch of a renewed Windows Mobile platform, there's every indication that we're going to see a dramatically expanded ecosystem of devices, screen types and interaction methods for the foreseeable future. Providing completely different content silos for every platform is not a viable option for most organizations with this kind of complexity in the market place.  What we need is infinitely adaptable remixing -- the ability to mix up any type of content anywhere, for any type of device.  We need the adaptable web.

Today, Mobify offers a best-of-breed mobile adaption layer that provides exactly the kind of infinitely adaptable remixing to future-proof your design.  We remove all the technical challenges that limit media-queries, including scaling asset sizes and supporting complete reordering, blending and optimization of your content -- while still allowing you to use media queries where they're best suited (yup, we support them!).

Mobify is focused on creating the best possible mobile web experience and bringing this experience to as many sites as we can.  dotMobi reports that just 29% of the top 10000 Alexa sites on the internet have a mobile optimized presence. But the situation is far worse than the report suggests.  Of those 29%, a significant number offer only a mobile ghetto -- a mobile "optimized" site that is actually optimal for only one family of mobile devices, or limits mobile users to a tiny portion of the site content and functionality. Clearly there's a long way to go to making the web a better place for those of us out and about with our handsets.

As the device market diversifies, Mobify will continue to deliver a solution that remixes, adapts and optimizes site content and functionality.  We'll have solutions whether you need to adapt to smaller screens, touch displays or future interaction methods we can only guess at.