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What is a Mobile Website?

By Soo Owens
Updated: Jan 21, 2024

A mobile website is page on the Internet that has been adapted for use on mobile devices, such as smartphones. The increasing popularity of mobile devices has lead to a demand for mobile web development, in which typical computer activities, such as browsing websites, are accomplished on a device that fits within an individual's hand. Many websites have redesigned their pages into a separate, mobile website to facilitate browsing on a smartphone. Opening a website on a mobile device may either prompt the mobile device user to select which layout option he or she prefers or may automatically redirect the user to the alternative site.

One of the primary issues of computing on a mobile device is the significantly reduced screen size. A mobile website seeks to addresses this issue by reducing the amount of content that must be loaded. The website's compatibility with the device depends on the amount of text and number of images that are displayed page by page. A mobile website requires less text and fewer images than its personal computer (PC) counterpart because the information and page links needed for the user to determine the website's main goal or theme are all that is displayed.

The download speed needed to open a website is often limited on a mobile device, and it usually takes longer for a website that is text and image heavy to completely load on a mobile device than on a PC. Factors beyond the user's control can affect the bandwidth available for mobile computing. Speed caps imposed by the network or the device, geographic location, or too many people using the network can significantly lower speeds. Designing a website specifically for mobile browsing helps to ensure that it loads at the fastest speed possible, at any given time. Simplifying the website allows less bandwidth to be used to load the entire mobile website.

Mobile websites are also created with the degree of user interaction in mind. Some sites require extensive user input, ranging from logging into a user account to uploading large blocks of text and numerous images. Such websites will often offer the option of mobile viewing through an application, which is downloaded separately to a smartphone or other mobile device for instant access. Adapting a mobile website into a mobile application is especially common for social networking sites. These websites provide three options for viewing, an external application, a limited content webpage, and a complete webpage.

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Discussion Comments
By NathanG — On Nov 17, 2011

@SkyWhisperer - I think the search engines and the social networking sites make up the top mobile websites list. They are spare and focus on functionality, not bells and whistles. That’s the winning formula I believe.

By SkyWhisperer — On Nov 16, 2011

@nony - Mobile website design requires fewer pictures and more text. Frankly, while this may seem like a step backward to accommodate the mobile sphere, I see it as a step forward for website design overall.

I’ve never been a fan of websites that are top heavy with multimedia. When I search the Internet I am looking for information, not entertainment. I think that the fewer the pictures on a website, the better in my opinion.

I am not saying we should have nothing but boring text, but just try to find a balance. Borrow from desktop publishing if you want an example, where they have spare designs with lots of white space that set off the text and pictures.

By nony — On Nov 15, 2011

In my opinion, mobile websites are the wave of the future. Everything is going mobile. I work for a software company and we are already spearheading mobile website development.

The goal is to take our existing client applications and retool them so that they function as mobile websites, delivering software as a service instead of having to be installed on the users’ computers.

This is no small task. A lot of the functionality has to be streamlined and offloaded onto the server, with only the barest of interfaces available for the website. It can be done, however, and it has to be done if we are to keep up with the way things are going.

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