Mobile Web Design

The question that I ask myself as a web designer is whether it’s right and obvious that our profession automatically covers the abilities of developing graphics and markup for mobile devices and tablets.

The current situation

More and more often I find in job ads the demand of particular and specific skills that concern web design and markup development  for mobile devices and tablets. It’s also starting to proliferate requests for web designers just for this activity: and the thing makes me think. Obviously I’m not talking about Iphone/Android developers that is a completely different profession even for those who develop only graphics.

At the moment I think I can outline these differents professions (excluding Flash):

  • traditional web designer
  • mobile web designer?
  • traditional developer
  • mobile developer (iphone/android)
  • apps mobile designer (that I wouldn’t exactly call web designer)

Respect to the last of these positions, I don’t think that who develops graphics for apps is a web designer, but  more a graphic designer, because he can only recreate and personalize the components that development packages (see SDK) make available. This discussion is very long  and complicated that goes beyond this post, but it would be nice to treat.

The web designer for mobile

The first of the professions listed above, sees the word “traditional” which is referred to websites consumed by PCs and laptops. But as we all know, on mobile devices can also be developed optimized web pages for these devices, so not just dedicated apps.

I think that the rules of design meant as graphics (colors, contrasts, logo positioning) are always valid , but many concepts and key points of the traditional web design  fall in front of mobile devices.

For example take the screen resolution: it’s true that on mobile the user can’t resize the browser window , but it’s also true that for a strong web design, it’s necessary to consider all the resolutions of  devices and maximize the space available. This forces us to re-consider the position of the menu, the contact information, the contents in the foreground, the quantity of text.

Moreover with the complete diffusion of the touch navigation system we have to foresee for example keys and links that are easy to click and activate with fingers, less precise of a mouse pointer.

And not to mention the weight of the pages which is a fundamental factor as there’s still a lack of real- flat rates for mobile access.


My idea is that this profession must be separated and different from the traditional web designer. It’s obvious that a curious, brilliant professional with an eye at the near future must seriously start dealing with these new features, but I think that it’s not right nor correct to confuse these two professions. There are many differences in terms of design, markup and user experience to be considered and the technical basis of a traditional web designer aren’t enough to be talented professional also on mobile.

I see the same problem recur with the arrival and success of flash. In the past it was requested and insisted that a web designer was also a flash designer, forgetting for example that flash works in vector.

The same thing is valid also for web agencies: it’s not enough that they have 100 excellent websites in portfolio to ensure to develop an excellent product even for mobile One needs to have the right resources and also the right tools. It’s useless to run for emulators!  The feeling that gives a real device with its sensibility, the real brightness of the screen and the speed of rotation, are things that can’t be emulated (like the navigation speed).

Thinking of a professional that has 5-6 devices to test his  mobile creations is improbable for me, at least until this particular request doesn’t become 50-60% of the total assets.

Fluid web design

A  not easy “cushion” solution, but very performing is to create fluid web pages that are adaptable to all screen resolutions, even mobile.

I’m talking about those articles that regard the adaptive web design or “responsive web design” techniques for which, through css and a  solid mark up, I’m able to bend the structure of the pages enough to make them suitable for mobile navigation. Using navigation systems that are adaptable, images in percentages and optimized fonts, a classical web designer can make his pages really ready for mobile, without requiring a development ad hoc.

This is also an argument that requires a deepening and a separate article, but to begin, I advice you this excellent reading.


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The Author

Alexander is a web professional for over 8 years and lives and works in Rome. Has several knowledge in web design and web development. It ranges from pure creativity to development of templates and graphic design conforms to the W3C standards.

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