A note on media-queries and mobile devices

These days, there is a lot of talk about reponsive design and mobile/content first. While i think we can agree on that these strategies isn’t entirely bulletproof (yet!), they have a ceratin appeal and can be fairly easy to implement and use today. I do believe that this approach is better than making a mobile version of a website, but that is probably necessary sometimes.

I stumbled upon an issue when i was working on a web-application the other day. I had just finished the design in photoshop and then i built the templates in html/css. I should point out that this was the desktop version of the design. Later on i wanted to make it look good on mobile devices as well, so i set up a media query in the stylesheet to cover the design changes for those kinds of devices.

The issue appeared to me at this stage of the process, the mobile devices would need to download the extra set of styles to reset the desktop styles. This is a bit of an issue, since when we talk about mobile, we asume that the device has significantly less bandwith than a desktop computer. That’s not necessarily true all the time but it can be most of the time, if one is on a bus-commute for example.

So that is where mobile first comes in, the problem however has to do with when one would build templates from a photoshop design that covers the “desktop” version. It is a bit hard to develop with the mobile first approach in this case, since the templates has to match the original design as close as possible (That doesn’t mean it has to be pixel perfect or even look exactly the same in all browsers).

So i tought about this some more… And finally i came to the conclusion that the best way for me was to reset the desktop styles on mobile devices (and narrower viewports), since i wanted to keep them separate from each other (easier to maintain). This means however that mobile devices do indeed get a bit heavier stylesheet than what’s necessary, but on the other hand, there’s no extra http request needed. This certainly isn’t the most perfect solution, but at this stage in the development process it was the best way to do it.

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