Mark Greenwood Team : Web Development Tags : Web Development

Does adaptive design work for mobiles and tablets?

Mark Greenwood Team : Web Development Tags : Web Development

Adaptive design is an elegant solution to the problem of delivering content to multiple devices, however is it really a perfect solution? Users would tend to disagree...

Mobile users:

With the advent of the "app" defining the mobile experience, users expect to see menus with only a few relevant options that do not require scrolling, title bars with back buttons and do not mind paging through content as long as it loads quickly. In contrast to this, attempting to adapt a full size web page down to a mobile phone size, if forces a lot of scrolling, even if some content is removed. Reducing the experience to just a few essentials of what a mobile user wants is critical. Succinct menus and quick page loads encourage users to turn more pages. Some content is worth more on a mobile than a desktop, for example a mobile user reading a product review is likely contemplating buying that product.

Developers can learn much from airlines and banks. Their mobile sites are often great representations of key functionality coming to the fore, with quick access to the basic information they might need on the fly (no pun intended) with more detail available if the mobile user really wants it.


Tablets are for swiping... The tablet should be thought of as a magazine form factor. Users have been trained by numerous high volume user apps from iBooks to major news papers that they shold flip from right to left to page through content on these devices. Users are perfectly happy to swipe through a multi-page article just as they would a magazine. Rather than developing a page vertically as you would for a desktop where the user has a mouse and arrow keys, the developer should embrace horizontal swiping to allow more consumption of content. This is not so easy for developers but there are products available to ease the pain of paging simple content. It is worth noting that users do not mind seeing a full page advertisement whilst swiping through content, making this a very monetisable technique.

The current trend of adaptive design for these devices has perhaps gone a little too far! It really only needs to be about removing white space and removing complexity. Some services like Twitter provide a simpler tablet experience on their desktop website, reducing the requirement to adapt it to a tablet. A simple clean design with obvious, slightly oversized calls to action and no drop down menus. It's simple for desktop users and users do not mind scrolling down to see content like streams so the same design for desktop and tablets works well here.

In summary, it is time consuming, expensive and painful for developers to have 3 different use cases for 3 different form factors. However if done correctly the effort will bear fruit in terms of a users experience and ultimately monetisation.