At the end of the day, do I need a device database?
I've recently been doing a ton of research on mobile development, and it seems there are two ways developers are directing users to mobile sites: either redirect the user automatically based on the user agent string or provide the user with a link to the mobile site. But once users actually gets to the mobile site, I still need to determine which image sizes, stylesheets, etc. to deliver to the page. So, regardless of how the user actually gets to the mobile site, will I still need to use a device database to determine the look and feel of the site, or is there a better way?
The main consideration is screen resolution and how this affects ui placement, rather than device. There's no more need to tailor per device than there is to do so per OS/Screen res on the desktop. A well designed mobile ui will perform equally well across ios/android/bb without having to pander to individual stylistic quirks.
Thanks, but I am not referring to only smartphones; our site also needs to work on feature phones (very limited CSS, no JS, etc). That is why I am looking for a way to handle device detection. I do not want to force feature phones to download assets that they cannot handle.
It's worth analysing the return on investment for the effort you'd need to put in to get every single mobile optimised, versus the reality of the traffic that it would get.
Mobile use is still only a very small percentage of overall traffic (5%), and low end phones are a minute fraction of that (1/10 of that 5%). Is it worth expending the effort for 1 in every 200 visitors?
Unfortunately, I don't think we really have a choice. The sites I work with are pretty content-heavy, and displaying all of the content on mobile devices that we would on a desktop/laptop/tablet would be a bit much. So it's not just a question of design, but also of content delivery.
In that case, perhaps we'll use the user agent string to determine whether or not the user is on a mobile device, and then determine which content to deliver from there. Then, the only remaining question is how to deliver the properly-sized images. Oy.