In a recent article, CNET’s news.com surveyed the evolving mobile web development field, hitting on the major question we all wrestle with: develop a distinct unique site for mobile users (at example.mobi, possibly) or somehow dynamically optimize a single site for multiple types of user agents.
Our sense is that we are still in a transitional time so, at least on one major project, we are taking a hybrid approach. In fact, we are still working out the details: We may redirect mobile users to a version of the primary site optimized for their converged devices, or we may simply encourage them to use the mobile-optimized version of the site while still enabling them to satisfy their curiosity by visiting the web-basic version of the site.
In the latter case, we’ll use a smart enough stylesheet and user-agent sniffing regime so that they can have a satisfactory experience even if not visiting the mobile-specific site. Either way, we want to build both “flavors” of the site from the same content and image database, flagging some content as web-only and optimizing versions of the images for the mobile interface.
A key thing to remember is that even though a single site can be carefully crafted to be adequate in both interfaces, the use cases are not necessarily the same. We don’t expect people to read reams of paragraphs on their phones. More likely they will seek answers, help with problems, contact information, shortcuts. They will save their research and studying time for the full computer / laptop experience.
Of course in time this may change and things continue to converge, but it’s important to build for today with an eye on tomorrow and not get too far ahead of ourselves.