You Already Have a Mobile Website

Dec 12 -

If you have a website, then you have a mobile website.  Whether you intend it or not, people are viewing your site with mobile devices.  Your CMS can handle it, but can your design?  Mobile design techniques are evolving at a rapid rate, and people are doing things today that weren’t even imagined two years ago.

This is why we love it when people come to our Services team with new, innovative or cutting edge ideas.  It gives us an opportunity to innovate with a customer who needs something, and wants to help us craft it in a way that meets their needs.  What we learn from those discussions can help us formulate a plan for future releases, helping us define features in the core product.  Many new features have incubated this way, and it's great to get customers moving forward on the cutting edge.

The latest buzzword to explode onto the scene is Responsive Design.  We've had many prospects inquire about it, and many customers are making plans to incorporate it into their sites.  It should already be in your vocabulary, but the truth is that the concept is still relatively young in Web design history.  The concept was first coined in 2010, and has started to really gain momentum this past year.

Responsive Design is a Web design concept which tosses out the traditional fixed page width in favor of a more fluid grid that stretches, shrinks, repositions and re-styles content based on the actual browser size and dimensions.  Various style sheets can be applied on the fly and objects can be repositioned, re-ordered, or hidden where appropriate.  

So, responsive design seems like the way to go.  It solves most of the today’s Web design needs, such as mobile-device optimization, screen footprint variations, and URL confusion.

In fact, it's cousin, "adaptive design" is increasingly pushed aside in favor of a responsive approach.  Adaptive design is similar, and has some advantages.  The biggest difference is instead of a fluid grid, the designer creates several non-fluid size variations to cover specific scenarios or devices.  It might be the right solution for some, but if you’re starting the planning process today, responsive is more attractive, and lives right next door to adaptive. Truly responsive design means that any footprint will display in a way that is visually appealing and contextually relevant.

Early mobile-optimized sites were easy.  People understood that the mobile site was different.  It had to be different.  Mobile devices couldn’t support the full site, so people understood when you sent them to the “m-dot” site (such as  But now mobile devices have gotten smarter and bigger.   Many mobile devices do just as good a job with the full site as any desktop browser.  So, is it really mobile at all?  The m-dot site is not good enough anymore.

But it’s better than nothing.  So if you have nothing, it’s easy to get up and running with an m-dot site while you create your overall strategy.  In CommonSpot, merely create a new subsite and feed it with a traditionally mobile optimized layout. Then create some simple pages that either have the content you need or pull in content from other areas of your site using CommonSpot’s built-in content re-use capabilities.  All this can be done by lunchtime, giving you the afternoon to start innovating your overall Web strategy.

As I mentioned, we have a lot of customers inquiring about mobile sites or responsive design.  But then there are the customers who just go ahead and do it.  It’s great to see a customer innovating on their own.  It’s so easy to create a new subsite in CommonSpot or create a new base template, that going mobile is easy.  We have several customers who wasted no time jumping right into mobile early in the game by creating m-dot sites.  

On of my favorite examples, however, is the City of St. Louis, a CommonSpot customer who recently and quietly launched a new skin using responsive design.  They didn’t pick up the phone to ask how or even if it was even possible.  They just did it.  It’s great to see customers applying the latest innovations on their own.  It reminds us how truly flexible and extensible CommonSpot is.

The City of St. Louis understands the core principles that CommonSpot was built on:  keep content separate from design.  This has been the core value of CommonSpot for over a decade.  Truthfully, any good CMS already does this.  But understanding how it does it and how to implement your site can go a long way toward design independence, and can help you reach your viewers through any channel, and on whatever device they’re using.

You can use CommonSpot to build whatever you want today.  Future releases will include new ways to make the most of your mobile content, as well as server-side assistance via RESS (Responsive with Server-Side components).  I’ll cover these in a future blog post.  But for now, it’s great to see how our customers can stay on the leading edge using CommonSpot.


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