opinion

It's Become a Mobile World

Stephen Yagielowicz

The long-predicted mobilization of the web is well underway, and a fait accompli in the U.S. and other major markets, such as Japan, which in both cases, are now driving more traffic to Google via mobile devices than via more traditional desktop computing platforms. While the online adult entertainment industry has been surprisingly slow in embracing mobile usage, in part because porn is better on a bigger screen, there is an increasing level of mobile compatibility seen on both legacy and newly launched adult websites.

There are two main ways in which digital content can be delivered to mobile devices — via applications (apps) tailored to the device’s native hardware — and via mobile compatible websites. These include sites that incorporate responsive design techniques that allow the layout to shrink and stretch to fit the viewing device’s screen size — whether that is a small phone screen, or widescreen HD desktop display.

In today’s “mobile first” development world, it is important to embrace changes in audiences and their behavior, and to realize that among many professionals, “responsive web design” is now simply “web design,” and it is not a trend that is coming — it is now the normal way of doing things.

Apps have the benefit of providing a better, more personalized user experience, tailored to a particular device and its unique capabilities — enabling features such as hand gesture control over touchscreens and GPS for providing location data — a great tool for finding the nearest retail location or sexy hookup.

Do not be underestimate the value of hand gesture controls — especially for adult mobile applications, where a substantial percentage of users may only have one hand free — an audience that appreciates the ease of selecting the next image, gallery or video with a simple shake of the hand or twist of a wrist.

The problem is that focusing on apps, while perhaps providing the best user experience, is a costly and time-consuming process that can tax resource-limited operations that likely lack the skills and tools needed to serve more than one audience.

For example, you might be able to make a decent Android application that works with one or more devices and flavors of this fragmented OS — but can you also produce a decent iPhone app, and do so in a timely manner. Distributing these apps is also problematic, due to a restricted ecosystem, and corporate content limits.

Thus for many smaller shops, including independent adult content providers, the trick is to emulate the robust, app-style user experience as closely as possible, all while maintaining the ease of development, deployment and maintenance of a website.

This is where responsive website design comes into play — but responsiveness alone is only the tip of the iceberg — with features, interactivity, navigation, style, and more, all becoming factors requiring careful attention.

For example, responsiveness can result from simple CSS solutions or through full frameworks, such as Foundation or Twitter’s popular Bootstrap. Another simple solution for WordPress users is a responsive theme, such as the default 2015 theme that comes standard with a new installation. Regardless of the means of implementing a responsive design, it is vital to ensure that all fonts, icons, images and other resources are also responsive (and retina-friendly for high-resolution screens).

Focusing on enhanced features and interactivity is also important for catering to today’s website users.

For example, from dialog boxes to audio tones, vibrations and more, mobile devices offer tremendous opportunities for engaging users through feedback and other interactive means. Couple this with the ability to use hand movements such as shaking, twisting and other gestures for user input, and it is easy to see how viewing digital media can become a much more tactile experience than is “seeing it” alone.

Implementing this level of interactivity is the hallmark of dedicated apps — but it is difficult to approach this level through traditional website programming techniques, although some of this functionality, such as hand gestures, might be incorporated through scripting on touchscreen desktop displays.

One thing to keep in mind is that many of today’s Internet users, especially the more affluent ones that you wish to attract as customers, are using more than one device — visiting your site on both fixed and mobile devices — with different display capabilities. Making this experience as seamless as possible is in your best interest and provides the best usability.

Navigation is perhaps the most important factor in this equation. Keep in mind that while some mobile users employ a stylus, most users will be navigating via fat thumbs on woefully undersized buttons, which makes it vital to incorporate more streamlined navigational menus with larger tap targets, and to keep the process consistent across platforms.

or example, one common technique often used by legacy sites getting a mobile makeover is to use a page-side fly-out nav bar for mobile users, while maintaining a traditional top-of-page nav bar for desktop users. Consider offering the same fly-out for desktop users as well, to provide a consistent cross-platform navigational metaphor.

Taking this consistency further, try to focus on developing a uniform display of your site, with perhaps larger but fewer images (using the CSS code of img {max-width: 100%;}). Use fewer non-essential images and graphics for faster loading — and then be sure to say goodbye to Flash files in lieu of more modern (and more compatible) video formats, such as .MP4.

As an old school web designer who embraced fixed-width design and strived to exert the maximum level of control possible to ensure consistent cross-browser display, I find it hard to “let go” and adopt a fluid layout approach.

But in today’s “mobile first” development world, it is important to embrace changes in audiences and their behavior, and to realize that among many professionals, “responsive web design” is now simply “web design,” and it is not a trend that is coming — it is now the normal way of doing things.

With 2016 rapidly approaching and the desktop going the way of the dinosaur, it is time for all website developers to either get on board or be left behind.

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