Rethinking the Mobile Web

Bryan Rieger’s “Rethinking the Mobile Web” is “a pragmatic look at creating an accessible and inclusive mobile experience.” It’s full of useful information about the mobile landscape as well as technical suggestions. A colleague asked:

Is he suggesting the solution is to provide a mobile experience first as default and then enhance with media queries to adapt it for desktop and further for other mobiles device enhancements. As media queries don’t work in IE8 and lower, IE will get a small/stripped down site that is adapted for mobile viewing (unless javascript is turned on to correct/fix it). Do you think you can sell that level of progressive enhancement to the majority of clients?

I do think this is his suggestion. Instead of using media queries to adapt for scaled down versions, you use media queries to scale up. Think about it as an implementation of progressive enhancement.

Currently, no version of Internet Explorer supports media queries. They are expected in IE9, but we know how quickly people upgrade their IE. Bryan doesn’t speak to this directly in the presentation, as far as I can tell, but others have looked at how to solve this problem. One option is to provide a ‘fully enhanced’ version to IE 8 and below through conditional comments. It doesn’t fully address the issue of IE on mobile devices but there could be server-side or JavaScript methods to handle these cases.

Most clients (and for that matter web designers or developers) have rarely thought about developing in this way. So much of what we do for our clients is educating them on new techniques and methods. Not every client will go for this, but there are things we can do in less radical terms that are in the spirit of this. We have to become familiar with the techniques ourselves first before we can start selling it out to clients. It could also be a lower budget way to provide a more universal mobile experience for our clients. They don’t have to build an app or have multiple versions of the site for every device. Techniques like this have been part of my own thinking for several years, and mobile brings these ideas more clearly into focus.