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Targeting a Wide Range of Devices with Your Application (3 of 4)

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Option 2 – Separate sites for mobile and desktop
Moving the application forward from the previous post – this option talks about creating separate sites for desktop and mobile browsers. This approach relied on the same User Agent that Adaptive Web Rendering relies on, to get information about the native platform and the browser.

Separate sites for mobile and desktop got a huge boost around 2011 when HTML 5 enabled the mobile browsers with a bunch of new capabilities. Within a year, most of the mobile browsers implemented flashy new HTML5 features while the desktop browsers were still catching up. So it made perfect sense to create a separate site for mobile browsers.

In this model, based on the user agent information, the request is directed to a separate site (typically m.MyApp.com as opposed to MyApp.com for desktop browsers).

Web Mobile Web

The mobile site brings in smarter functionalities up front using newer features like Geo Location, Web Socket based duplex communication etc. Using a separate site for mobile means reduced bytes sent across the wire to minimize data usage and keeping the site performance up. The mobile site might be in a better position to be SoLoMo (Social-Local-Mobile) than the desktop site. However, depending on the business of the application, SoLoMo is something you always want to consider, whether mobile or desktop.

As far as the native look and feel is concerned, all the techniques discussed in the previous option – responsive design and adaptive rendering – are still available to the application. In this case the application is category aware (desktop or mobile) so, it can be more fine-tuned towards the target platform.

Web Mobile Web with RWD

While this model is still great and is a common practice by most applications, there has been some decline in the usage of this model. Firstly because the desktop browsers have caught up on the latest and greatest features of HTML 5. Secondly, the heavy reliance on user agent can be risky. Every time a new version of the platform and browser comes out, the algorithm that reads it to understand the device might need a re-adjustment.

In spite of these issues, using a separate Web site for Mobile and Desktop enables the application to be seen and heard clearly, across platforms and form factors. It gives you the option to think differently for mobile users and achieve more with Responsive Web Design and Adaptive Rendering.

We will go one step further in the next post to being as native to the platform as possible without rewriting the application in the native technology.

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