The proliferation of apps for the smartphones is creating an interesting debate in both technical circles and from content management providers. I recently read two articles that suggested the move towards Apps for the smartphone may be waning. I love some of my apps, but I don’t like building them. Its hard enough to maintain a good website, but now build an App too? And is it really building one App or an App for the iPhone, Android, and maybe one day the new Windows Phone?
Google recently came out with their stance that they prefer a ‘responsive web design’ as opposed to differing HTML/CSS configurations, or separate mobile sites and apps. Now, some of their unstated rationale is likely based on their desire to compete with Apple and keep users of the app store, but from a development standpoint, less is quite often more, and managing only one site versus multiple is often both easier and delivers a better user experience.
At the same time Google came out with their recommendation I saw a report from the ReadWriteWeb that suggests that users prefer to consume content on a Mobile device via the web as opposed to an App. Now, there’s a few great content providing apps out there, but in general, I think they’re right.
Particularly when it comes to what we do within the church. We just simply don’t have the resources to be building Apps or maintaining multiple websites. We do, however, have to start planning for a mobile world. Mobile is how more and more people are consuming content daily. Building a ‘responsive web design’ is a little more complicated and it undoubtedly will take awhile for most Open Source and other vendors to come up with templates for it, but they are starting to emerge. I haven’t seen one for Joomla! or Drupal yet, but there are a few for WordPress no available.
At Liturgical Publications, we recently upgraded some of our sites to be a responsive web design to support mobile devices. You can see what I’m talking about here, http://www.weconnect.com. Go to this site and then start shrinking your browser window. Try and reduce your window to the size of a smart phone. As you do that, watch the menuing and layout change. The entire menu dynamically shifts to a mobile format as the size decreases. In short, it responds to the format you’re on. There’s no mobile site, no extra technology, just some HTML and CSS work. Compare that site to our main corporate site at http://www.4lpi.com. That site is a Joomla site and you’ll notice it doesn’t respond to shrinking the window. This site has not yet been converted to be a responsive web design.
In order to implement a responsive web design, you need to be able to make some significant changes to your website’s HTML and CSS. Even if you can’t do that or your current website design doesn’t permit that, its still something to be aware of. The era of the mobile phone is upon us. Its important that all our sites work and respond well on mobile devices. This is something that everyone should be aware of as you look to enhance or upgrade your website.