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To Degrade or to Enhance…

Posted by
Tim Butler

Categories
Development

Old floorboards

Recent statistics show that searches of the web on mobile devices have overtaken desktop based searches for the first time. This means that the ability to view a site easily and clearly on a mobile device is more important than ever.

While some companies still have a dedicated mobile friendly version of their site (BMW for example), the preferred solution is to have a responsive site that can be viewed on any device.

Historically, the trend has been to start with the desktop version of a site, and use “graceful degradation” to remove features and content that either would not work or be too cramped on a mobile device.

The newer school of thought is a mobile-first approach, using “progressive enhancement” to introduce features as the viewport size increases.

These two approaches may seem similar, but the advantage of mobile-first is that the site is built to give the user the best possible experience on their mobile device, and then the site is improved and “enhanced” for devices with a larger screen size. This results in a higher quality site for all users.

At Big Brand Ideas, we usually advise adopting a mobile-first approach for any new web project. This approach considers the content of each part of the site, establishing the core content. By identifying the importance of the information being shown and deciding how to best show this information to the user we can develop a well-structured site which is intuitive, easy to navigate and offers the right content for all visitors.

Conversely, using a desktop-first graceful degradation approach can result in a watered down, weaker version of the desktop site once it is viewed on a mobile device.

Mobile web users are increasingly becoming used to high levels of user experience, and will no longer put up with struggling around a poorly designed interface. By prioritising the mobile experience, instead of adding responsive functionality almost as an afterthought, we are ensuring a consistently enjoyable user experience across all devices.

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