Does the mini iPad spell the end for the dedicated mobile site?

Like many, I remain a bit confused as to exactly what the target audience for the half size tablet is? Rather skeptically I have come to the conclusion that companies like Apple simply don’t feel they have enough products to flog, so with the impending festive period approaching the mini iPad is a way to make sure the Christmas party budget is suitably large again. But one thing that does occur is that Apple dipping their toe into the mid-sized device market probably spells the beginning of an influx of devices of this size.

As digital practitioners should we be particularly bothered by this? Well my view would be that there is one significant implication of this new sized tablet and that is that realistically it spells the end of the mobile website. What do I mean? Well realistically most normal ‘desktop’ websites can also be used quite easily by a tablet like the iPad and so many companies made the decision to have a specific mobile site to cater for the small mobile screen sizes. And this was a valid approach. The problem is that neither of the above two sites will be suitable for the mid sized tablet. The old problems of having to zoom in and out or scroll will occur on a ‘desktop’ site and a mobile site simply won’t be designed to fit the screen well.

For me, this is the moment that responsive websites are going to emerge as a clear favourite in place of a separate mobile site. Unless, of course, you happen to have a huge amount of money and resource available to create a mobile, midi and full sized site, this is surely going to be the only way to produce a site that will work for everyone, fit the screen well and not invoke a huge amount of maintenance. The shame about this is that mobile websites are specifically designed to be mobile experiences, complete with mobile related design and experience considerations. Responsive sites, although extremely cool and often a good experience, cannot cater specifically and separately for the mobile, midi or desktop experience and this means that potentially users are going to lose out in some way.

It will be interesting to see how the digital world responds to this size format in the next couple of years and if responsive sites will evolve into even more clever implementations. The challenge has certainly been laid down, so it is time for us UX practitioners to respond.

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