In a world where people are constantly glued to their mobile devices (in fact I bet many of you are reading from a tiny 3″ by 5″ screen right now), the ease with which developers can design mobile websites has increased to meet the ever-growing popular demand for “mobile-friendly websites.”
While many articles focus on designing a mobile app, the following words are going to be dedicated to a different nature: useful tools for developing a mobile website. Apps are great, but the new Google algorithm Hummingbird has increased the prominence and importance of the mobile version of a desktop site.
Before we address some mobile web development tools, let us first discuss a few of the characteristics to keep in mind when developing mobile websites.
It goes without saying that mobile devices (tablets included) have much smaller screens; however, of equal design importance is the fact that the screens automatically switch orientation between portrait and landscape mode as the user rotates the device. As such, mobile websites must be designed to accommodate for both viewing modes.
Touch screen compatibility must also be taken into account. Unlike a desktop site where users view websites on a larger scale, without the need for zooming in and out, touch screens encourage the user to zoom in and out. Font size, clickable areas, and how important information is displayed must be taken into account when designing a mobile website.
Mobile websites should always be developed for cross-browser viewing, which will better accommodate for viewers using different mobile devices and browsers. Avoid using browser-specific features. Check your mobile website on multiple browsers and devices. If you notice any loading issues, be sure to address them with your developer. Any loading errors will result in poor SEO rankings, as well as negatively impact the overarching ranking of your desktop site.
Now that we have established a good understanding of the characteristics to consider when developing mobile websites, we can turn the discussion over to helpful developmental tools.
- Bootstrap is a front-end toolkit that was built by Twitter to aid developers in building web applications. Bootstrap utilizes responsive elements that are geared towards making a site function across multiple devices.
- Sublime is a default text editor that features easy-to-use coding elements. Multiple viewing screens and a responsive help desk team make Sublime a great mobile web development tool.
- CSS Lint helps you to spot cross-browser code issues. The program is designed to pick apart your code, spot any weaknesses, and inevitably help you to build a more user-friendly mobile website.
- iOS Simulator and Android SDK are two mobile web development tools, which allow you to test your mobile website on multiple browsers and multiple platforms. Prior to releasing your mobile website to the public, you can determine if you have built the best site possible.
With the list of above tools at your disposal, developing a mobile website has never been better. As with any web development it is important to constantly check your work.
Various mobile device and browser updates can affect the performance of your mobile site. To combat for any potential glitches remember the mobile web development golden rule: develop with the end-user in mind; mobile website users greatly value ease of use, prominently displayed information, and functionality above all else.