Upon opening a website, there is an expectation to see a nice, neat, orderly layout with a banner across the top and a menu down the side. Whichever browser is opened, it will look and function the same. However, what happens when using a mobile device?

Mobile devices are a recent addition to the technology-based world. There are two different types of mobile devices: smart phones and tablets.  Each present two different ways to look at information. Although smart phone screens are inching back up to larger sizes, viewing a full website typically results in too small a view to appreciate the layout.  Tablets (including hybrid e-readers), however, are just miniature laptops, so viewing a full site looks decent.

More people are ditching desktops and laptops for tablets and smart phones. Tablets are a more affordable and portable option for many who only need to go online, check email, watch media and occasionally write documents.  Plus, more locations are offering free Wi-Fi.

While these device are more light-weight than laptops and desktops, and present instant-on and instant access to information, they offer an interesting and complicated development for website designers. There is waffling on how to present web pages with these devices in mind, with absolutely NO consistency across the internet. While using smart phones, some sites (www.iastate.edu) present a page or a pop-up window giving an option between a mobile or full site.

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For tablets, it goes straight to full site. Others (www.lib.iastate.edu) simply send the user to the full site, whether using smart phones or tablets.

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Other sites vary. The Des Moines Register utilizes a mobile site with two different layouts, in addition to the full site. The tablet edition gives the option of increasing data storage on your tablet to 50MB; the use of images is prevalent.

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CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE. Clockwise from top left: tablet first screen; tablet second screen; tablet full site; tablet mobile screen.

On the smart phone layout, the images are unobtrusive, but these images are rotated out every few days.

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CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE. Left to right: smart phone first screen; smart phone scrolled to bottom of screen; smart phone full site; smart phone landscape view.

The Ames Tribune defaults to the full site when using a tablet:

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and mobile site (with no images) when detecting a smart phone:

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The ISU Library Digital Collections site currently does not design with mobile devices in mind. This decision was made not only because images are not temporary and continue to be added, but because the images are managed and hosted through CONTENTdm®, which does not utilize mobile layouts. To offer the mobile layouts for devices on the front end of the site, only to link into non-optional layout pages is neither seamless nor professional, and therefore the site will be left as-is for the foreseeable future. How would the user benefit from a text-only site, where the information, ultimately, is neither bite-sized nor appropriate without images?

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