The small screen is a big deal to Qualcomm Inc. The company’s business is built heavily around smartphones and mobile devices.
So it follows that the people behind the corporation’s website put a lot of thought into how that site might look on the small screen.
Increasingly, Qualcomm is building its website to adapt to the size of the screen that a particular user is employing.
The site looks good on a mobile device. It looks good on the expansive screen of a desktop. On a midsized tablet? It still looks good.
Some companies use the strategy of building separate sites optimized for mobile devices.
The content on Qualcomm’s site, however, uses one set of code. It morphs into a shape that best fits whatever screen the viewer is using.
Adaptive Web Design
The term for that is adaptive or responsive Web design.
Here Qualcomm is an innovator. There are few large companies doing this on their websites, notes Todd Tarplee, senior manager for marketing at the company.
“It’s still early. You’ll see more of it in the future,” Tarplee said.
Tarplee recently shared his laptop computer with a visitor and showed the Qualcomm site’s ability to adapt. He did it by slowly decreasing the size of a browser window. Photos shrank. At more than one point, the header and the footer — which are dark brown squares at the top and bottom of the Web page that hold type — changed in a subtle manner to better accommodate the decreasing size of the screen.
By the time it had reached its smallest point, the screen held a set of large buttons for easy navigation on a mobile device.
The capability is best seen on the Qualcomm homepage and the page devoted to its Snapdragon processors (www.qualcomm.com/snapdragon).
One of the highest profile adaptive websites belongs to The Boston Globe, Tarplee said; it’s visible at bostonglobe.com.
The Globe, owned by The New York Times Co., introduced the feature late last year.
Why all the attention? An increasing number of people are coming to the Qualcomm website using mobile devices, noted Cherry Park, Qualcomm’s senior director of marketing.
The use of mobile devices has grown by an order of magnitude in less than three years, Tarplee said. And it continues to grow. In 2011, the number of people getting to the Internet via a mobile device has surpassed the number getting to it through the desktop, Park said.
With the rise of the mobile Internet, there is now debate over where companies and designers should begin their process of designing a website: with the mobile version or the desktop version.
Park said that Qualcomm has a small, in-house design team that works on its Web design, and that industry partners help with development. Those partners include Digitaria Interactive Inc.
One advantage of adaptive design is that it simplifies the work of maintaining a website.
Opting for separate sites — one optimized for mobile and the other for desktop devices — means that sites must be built, maintained and updated twice, said Nicholas Davison, director of Web development for Digitaria.
“You can build something twice forever,” said Thomas Siebert, vice president of communications for Digitaria. “Or you can build it once and maintain it once.”