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When a visitor with a mobile device clicks on a link to www.website.com/product we can redirect them to m.website.com/product. This page has content and a layout best suited to smart phone users.

When a mobile device clicks on a link to www.website.com/services and that page does not exist at our m.website.com, where do we direct them to?

Do we:

  • Redirect them to (what we, internally, define as) a relevant mobile site page?
  • Redirect them to (what we, internally, define as) a relevant mobile site page, and include a "View original page on the Classic website" link?
  • In the instance where there is a one-to-many relationship (as opposed to a one-to-one) between a Classic website page and a Mobile website page, we redirect them to a "Where you looking for?" index page that lists (what we define as) relevant mobile site pages?
  • ...or, something else?

What are the standard practices here?

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2 Answers 2

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In my opinion, designing for the viewport instead of the device has a lot of benefits. Having two separate websites can create maintenance issues, which can impact UX (consider the two sites diverging with the non-mobile website being updated more often - it has happened quite a bit).

If you have one site and design for the viewport, you will eliminate many of the issues you've discussed. There are many ways to do this, but Twitter Bootstrap, Skeleton Framework, and many more employ this technology (responsive design).

I'd suggest looking at some more resources on responsive design, including Ethan Marcotte's awesomely short Responsive Web Design, or take a look at Responsive web design Vs Separate Website for Mobile here on se.ux.

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The standard practice is to make sure that every single page has a mobile-optimized counterpart because you don't know how visitors will be referred to your site (e.g., from an e-mail read on a mobile device but sent from a desktop). You also must make sure that the mobile version of the site doesn't refer to un-optimized pages.

Now, in case such a situation arises after all, you need to check the referral and act accordingly:

  • If the person is referred from your mobile website, they're expecting to continue seeing the mobile version of the site. Therefore, you should present them with a placeholder page informing them that the content isn't available for mobile & offering a redirect to the desktop version.
  • If the referral is from an external source, you can show the desktop version right away as there's no explicit expectation of it (people do expect it implicitly because it's 2012).

However, in both cases, you will also need to decide what to do when the visitor continues the session and tries to access some content that does have a mobile version. The problem is that you need to provide a consistent browsing experience and switching between mobile & desktop versions is the opposite of that.

As you can see, not having all pages ready for mobile consumption results in a rather convoluted UX. Thus, do your best to prevent it.

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