The web development blogs are brimming with posts on mobile best practices. Not leaving mobile users with a subpar experience is the rallying cry and the link to the full site in the footer is the evil villain.
I agree with all of these sentiments. A mobile site should not be a stripped down desktop version. A mobile site should be fast and responsive and feature all the same content as its desktop equivalent. We should all design new sites with a mobile-first mindset. However, the reality is that we work with clients that have very intricate and, more to the point, existing websites. These sites were likely not built with a mobile first mentality. Some may not have been built with a fluid layout or they may have gone through many different iterations through many different development firms. To be blunt, some sites are a mess of legacy code, graphics and dependencies.
Rarely do we work with clients anymore that are starting a site from scratch. More likely, we are inheriting a site that might have been designed and coded by another dev team or was designed and coded many years ago without all the benefits of the more recent best practices. With these sites, nothing short of a full redesign can whip these sites into shape for a mobile experience.
I have heard a lot of talk about how creating a ‘mobile-specific’ site is the wrong way to go. I would agree with this if you are starting a new website from scratch. However, creating a mobile version of a very non-mobile existing site is a good first step. This allows you to step away from the full legacy site and create something simple and user-focused from the ground up.
Working on a separate mobile experience for an existing site can be like a breath of fresh air. You don’t have to worry about legacy code and what may break if you make a change to a page. You are able to craft an experience that is focused on the customer and what they may want to do on the site in a very streamlined fashion.
Granted, not all contingencies are going to be covered by this approach and this is where a link to the full site will come in handy. I have seen some declare that the full site link is a failure of mobile design. That might be true, if you are starting from the ground up. However, think of this as a transitional period. It is hard to imagine a client that would want you to do a full site redesign just because they need to add some mobile functionality. All sites will eventually need to be updated and redesigned. When that time comes, this new mobile experience you have created will give you a nice springboard to start a full new design of the site that encompasses a wide range of page sizes. That time (or budget) is not here yet, but it is on it’s way.
The mobile first mindset is wonderful, but don’t let that stop you from proceeding with building a mobile presence if time and budget can’t support a full redesign of your site just yet.