Design for user scenarios not device classes
When designing a website nowadays we need to target a broad range of devices from feature phones to smartphones to tablets to desktop to smart TVs.
However I think that targeting device classes has you barking up the wrong tree.
Currently there are two methods of targeting. First you try to detect the exact type of device to find out about its capabilities and second you detect the screen resolution to decide whether its a smartphone class or tablet or desktop. You would use the first method to detect everything else like feature phones and smart TVs.
After detecting the device class you decide what to display and how. Here is a post about multiscreen strategies that covers that method beautifully.
But the lines between those device classes get fuzzy. Now we have terms like phablet or tablones thrown in for devices that are either big phones or small tablets. When a screen size is suitable for true mobile use might be determined by its ability to fit into a pocket but if that’s a a pocket of a pair of trousers or a jacket is due to personal preference.
What you really want is to provide the information a user needs in exactly this moment. You want to know if he is mobile or stationary and whether he looking for fast information or a thorough read. Is he looking for entertainment or hard facts?
I don’t have an answer to this yet but I am sure that you need much more than a screen size to determine the users situation. Like is he moving? What’s his time on page? What’s he surfing for?
I expect solutions for individual and situation sensitive detection to come up within 2013 and I’m looking forward to it.