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Poll Results: Mobile Web Design Responsibility

Published by Chris Coyier

In early 2008, I asked the question:

What is your opinion as to the web designers role in mobile design?

The two choices were:

  • It is my job to make sure the website looks and functions well on mobile devices.
  • It is the mobile device's job to make sure my website looks and functions well.

Back then, 55% thought it was the mobile devices job. The vibe was more "I'm just gonna keep building websites how I have been and these new devices can handle making them work."

In April 2013, I started the exact same poll again. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the 55% majority position has shrunk to just 21% of people. The other 79% consider it there job to build websites that look and function well on mobile devices.

I forced people to choose one or the other to get a sense for where the majority of the responsibility lies, but I'm sure most of us agree that there is shared responsibility. Mobile devices need to support standards and should do all they can do to make the web experience great. But the polls are showing (and I agree) that ultimately the responsibility lies on the people making websites to make them work wherever they are used.


  1. I’m still surprised to see such a large percentage that believe its the mobile devices job

    • Permalink to comment#

      Why? The device (more accurately the browser of choice on that device) is just as important.

    • Permalink to comment#

      @awkm Not to revive an old thread but isn’t that comment like saying it’s Microsoft’s job to make their browser function properly. And yes, I agree it is. But as developers, are we not going to put in the extra effort to fix IE’s shortcomings?

  2. Although not surprising, in 2008 mobile web development didn’t usually mean responsive. It usually meant dedicated m. sites. In fact there were probably still a lot of WAP sites. Mobile development meant taking into consideration qvga screens as well.

    Mobile was less important and as a result fewer people felt it was worth it. Many mobile sites were using things like jQuery mobile and other frameworks that took iOS and other mobile platform metaphors and made them into HTML.

    Interesting how things change when market penetration makes it a business decision and not a web Dev or designer’s.

  3. Reinier Kaper
    Permalink to comment#

    I think it’s a 50/50 responsibility.

    Web developers have to make sure their websites are adaptable to different environments, preferably be device/browser agnostic (I know, Utopia, but an effort should be made). On the other hand, browser developers must try to make sure they adhere to standards and do everything possible to provide a good user experience.

    Isn’t that what our industry is all about? Working from both sides to make the user happy and deliver the best experience possible.

  4. Norman Wright
    Permalink to comment#

    Yes, both the web designer and the device have roles to play in the mobile web experience. The mobile device should support the recommended standards. However, the web designer or developer is responsible for ensuring that the website works across devices. The people creating websites have more impact on the final outcome, or user experience.

  5. If tablets have not been introduced, then things will be very different. Responsiveness took over the course.

    • Jesse
      Permalink to comment#

      I agree with you , Balaji, however smartphone pixel widths have become quite large compared to years ago, too.

  6. As a designer i would like to see my site display well across all platforms and devices. I would not expect any device to conform to the formatting needs of my site – as display format varies from site to site.

  7. jozsef kerekes
    Permalink to comment#

    Well, in an ideal web environment the browsers job on mobile devices would be to render the programmed page in the best/edgy way. At least the browsers on mobile devices support a lot of css3 properties, which is really soulwarming. If we wouldn’t waste time to make different browsers to show the page in the same way and every browser would support latest css3/html5 code we could concentrate on innovative usecases of these new standards.Because the conditions will never be perfect, the job remains to the fe. developer, who’s the webpage doctor, trained to make it happen on any device and browser.

  8. Tim Murphy
    Permalink to comment#

    Mobile devices have a role to provide compliant browser but at the end of the day it is the developers responsibility to ensure their site displays correctly.

  9. My question is not so much who or what is responsible for mobile design, but who is responsible in paying for it?

    Maybe sounds like a strange question, but since responsive web design took off there is a whole load more to think about and to do. We still have lots of clients that aren’t interested in “mobile friendly” designs. “Meh, it works fine on my iPhone, even if I do have to zoom in and out,” is one thing I hear frequently.

    Should developers just put their prices up and make stuff responsive regardless, or should the client ultimately have the option of whether they pay for a responsive site or not? This is the thing we’re wrestling with at the moment.

    • Jozsef Kerekes
      Permalink to comment#

      That is an interesting thought. I tend to say that the developer should put their hourly price a little bit up and have the responsiveness in every site he/she makes as a standard, like an accessability issue for a better web in the future.

  10. Ferdy
    Permalink to comment#

    @Gareth: I think ultimately clients should decide whether they approve the extra effort needed to make something responsive. However, in order for them to make that decision, they should be properly informed on the consequences, ideally using data, not opinions.

    Even using data it is difficult though. Let’s say stats show that only 8% of your traffic is from mobile. What does that mean? That there is no demand for it? Or does it perhaps mean that there is demand, but the mobile situation is so unusable that mobile visitors give up?

  11. I think devices role is to render PROPERLY and in the same way the latest CSS3/HTML5 features. The job of the developer is to use them. Most of my time is testing the end result in various of browsers and writing fixes – I don’t feel this is the way it should be.

  12. But don’t forget that when you are working from pc or lappy then you feel better then mobile devices.

  13. Permalink to comment#

    It’s just the way things are going, and I still get requests for flash design also. I know it sounds strange… anyhow. I think more and more people will use search mobile, and a client should know the upside to connecting with this user. provide a good user experience and they will visit the site again.

  14. Julien
    Permalink to comment#

    Indeed, it’s interesting to see how people change over time.

    And i strongly agree that the responsibility should be shared. Actually it should be very simple in theory; mobile browser should follow standards to interpret and render HTML and designer should design/develop following the same standards.

    It’s only normal the two sides of the web development spectre (developer & browser) are working hand in hand. And not one imposing to another.

    Following and reading about browser development for mobile. It seems a consensus among the browser developers that standards should be respected.

    But i’m still puzzled that mobile/desktop browsers can support standards, and yet we still need to code like dinosaurs for html email.

    • When it comes to coding like dinosaurs for HTML email, one of the biggest limitations is Outlook, which uses the MS Word rendering engine instead of the Internet Explorer rendering engine. It’s the lamest and most stupid idea ever, but sadly a heck of a lot of people use Outlook. Until this changes I think we’ll always be stuck in the dark ages when it comes to HTML emails.

  15. Permalink to comment#

    as a web company we want our cusomers to be happy and seen on all devices and a large percentage believe its the mobile devices job…I wish it

  16. I agree with the above…if only it was the responsibility of the device lol. But yes, if you want to provide your audience with a high quality, easy to use site you have to make the job yours.

  17. I couldn’t agree more. The website is only as good as the people who are making them. Indeed, mobile devices have become giants in web design but still it needs to be controlled or used by knowing hands.

  18. I agree with you ,
    Miranda Benner

  19. i also agree that its our job not our mobile devices. We make websites to be enjoyed by PEOPLE even using oldest devices in the world. Salute to the responsible web makers! :)

  20. I definitely feel that its our job as designers to produce a working and functional mobile site. They phone company makes the phones and puts specifications on them. Its our job to meet those specifications. Thanks for the read, very interesting how its changed so much.

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