In the age of tablets, mobiles, desktops, laptops, watches – all of which can now render a website, I find it amazing how many people still seem to neglect the varied experiences that each device delivers and design websites according to each device type.

Having a single website design across multiple devices is like trying to view a beautiful panorama through the eye of a needle. You just wouldn’t, or shouldn’t do it.

For a good few years now mobile has gained on the desktop as the preferred medium for accessing the internet. With these portable devices having less real estate, the question arises as to what aspects of your site should be given more prominence when making your “desktop friendly” website optimised for smaller, more popular/convenient devices.

Whilst there has been considerable discussion around the use of responsive websites there are still aspects of making a mobile friendly site more useable.

The main advantage of having a responsive website means that the visitors screen size and orientation, changes according to the size of screen. The benefit of this is that you have a “one-site-fits-all” design reducing not only any anguish for a user in trying to view a desktop site on a smaller screen, but also reduces development time as it doesn’t require multiple changes to a “mobile-only” site, a “desktop-only” site, or a “tablet-only” site.

But whilst responsive website designs are quicker and easier to implement, do they take full consideration of the user experience?

I have seen many a responsive website load slower on a mobile or tablet device because of the large images and using video. All very engaging when on a desktop but where there may be limited bandwidth and lower memory on a smaller device, it becomes painful to experience and may often have the visitor abandoning the site before it loads.

As mobile devices proliferate, you have to consider the context of where and when these devices are being used. By their very nature they allow access any time, any place anywhere but on a crowded commuter train trying to press a button that is too small becomes challenging. Another big frustration is text size. Ideally text should be considerably larger than you’d use on desktop as it’s frustrating for a user to have to zoom in to read text. Simple things like this can make a huge difference on conversions as we have seen in tests over the years.

Whatever choice you make around responsive or device specific websites you should always test. Not necessarily in an A/B way but more of a quality assurance way. Test on multiple devices. And then test again. And then again. This may seem like a thankless task to some but when you consider different tablets and mobile devices render pages in different ways, in different browsers – what may look good on one device may look not so good on another. Does a button “click” work prior to checking out? When you go to view the “terms and conditions” does it display in a small box or open up a new page, both scenarios potentially leaving the user in a total state of bewilderment and confusion as to what stage of the journey they’re now in. Also think of the context of the user when visiting the site, having multiple “clicks” may be acceptable to get to the desired content on a desktop, doing so on a tablet in rush hour may be a step too far.  Having your site look good on multiple devices may be your current goal but functionality is far more important.

Also, when you are going through your testing process look at using an A/B testing tool and modify each design slightly to see which one gets better adoption. What you might like and what your visitors may respond to could be surprisingly different.

With the advent of more and more devices of various screen sizes coming onto the market on almost a daily basis and with users and their demands/expectations on them being ever increasing, it pays to spend additional time and effort making sure that when users visit your site – it’s the best possible experience you can give them.