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Defining a Target - Determining What To Design For

When deciding to design for a mobile experience, the first question is the same as in any interactive endeavor: What is the Target?.

Before any other actions can be taken, you must know the final goal and audience. This is even more important in the mobile environment due to the variable nature of the devices in questions. Are you going to target a specific mobile device such as the iPhone? Or are you aiming to reach a wider audience? If so, what are the limits of that range?

If you decide to target a wider range of devices, it now becomes important to be able to distinguish between the variety of devices. The primary concern in designing for all these different devices is the screen size.

As the graph above shows, the screen width varies in great capacity from device to device. However, the majority of devices can be accommodated for by targeting just a few sizes. For example, we could break the sizes down into four categories :

  • Small Mobile Screens : 120px
  • Medium Mobile Screens : 240px
  • Large Mobile Screens : 320px
  • Desktops : 800px
If we chose to design for these sizes, we could successful reach 89% of the browsers. Of the remaining 11%, 4% would still show all the content, but optimized for a significantly(100px+) smaller screen, and then 7% would fall below our lower threshold of 120px.

Adopting a method of approach like this can allow you to simplify the divisions to which you have to design. A successful categorization though, will depend on knowing the target! If your primary device falls within the 4% of unoptimized screens, it would be advantageous to base the size categories around that device's screen.