As is the case with any business, attracting the largest audience possible is the key to success. Web design is a field which is constantly changing as new technologies emerge and more people than ever are getting connected in an ever-increasing variety of ways. Web design has become a lot more complicated due to the larger number of browsers and operating systems and the very way in which people access the Internet. Long gone are the days in which everyone accessed the web from their desktop or laptop computers. Today we have touch-screen tablet computers, smartphones, video game consoles with Internet access and standalone home entertainment systems with web browsing capabilities. Web designers who only focus on traditional desktop browsing are likely to be left behind.

People access the web in many different places from many different browsers and devices. Designing a website which is easily accessible to as many people as possible is the key to success, regardless of the purpose of the site. Following are some of the most significant web browsing options that you should consider when designing a new site to succeed in the modern world.

1 – Mobile Browsing

The days when people accessed the Internet only from home or by bringing their laptop computers to a wifi hotspot are long gone. These days, more and more people use Internet anywhere. People access the Internet while commuting to work and while out on business or leisure.

There are hundreds of different mobile browsing options out there. Smartphones are certainly not limited to the iPhone series either. Even the more basic mobile phones these days have Internet access through wireless and 3G. In spite of the rapidly increasing popularity of mobile devices for connecting to the web, many web designers are still failing to keep up with the times.

Even with the more powerful smartphones, accessing a website entirely designed for desktop viewing is tiresome at best and, on older smartphones, completely impractical. To succeed in a world where accessing the Internet anywhere is now the norm, it’s essential for just about any website to have a mobile-friendly version.

Mobile-friendly websites are designed for easier viewing on smaller screens, user-friendly touch-screen input and lower bandwidth. This does not mean that you should primarily design your website for mobile access, however.

Traditional browsing methods will always remain popular, so it is still essential to have a full version of your website complete with high quality graphics and all of the features and design styles that big-screen users enjoy.

Depending on the device being used, the correct version of the website should be made to load automatically. For example, when you go to on a mobile device, you’ll automatically get the mobile-optimized version. On a computer, you’ll get the full version.

2 – Touch-Screen Browsing

Most mobile devices use touch-screens for input. Using your fingers to browse the web is quite a different experience from using the traditional keyboard and mouse method. For optimal touch-screen browsing, you need larger buttons and tiles to make for a more user-friendly experience. Browsing your average website on a mobile device with touch-screen input can be a frustrating experience.

Touch-screen input is becoming more and more popular. Tablet computers also do away with the keyboard and mouse input, making way for touch-screen use instead. Although they are usually fully capable of displaying full versions of websites flawlessly, using them with sites designed solely for mouse-input is far from ideal.

Touch-screens are even starting to make an appearance on desktop and laptop computers and, with the upcoming release of Windows 8, touch-screens are likely to become even more popular on conventional computers.  Windows 8 introduces the new Metro UI which is predominantly designed with touch-screen users in mind. The end of the keyboard and mouse era is certainly not on the horizon, but it is still essential for web designers to take into account that a lot of surfers will be using their fingers to navigate the web instead.

To design a successful site, it’s ideal to have separate versions for low-bandwidth mobile browsing, touch-screen browsing and the full version itself. One extremely popular site which provides all three versions is Facebook. It provides the full version that you see when browsing on a computer, a lower-bandwidth version designed for the small screens of mobile devices and a touch-screen version with larger buttons and links for more powerful smartphones and other touch-screen devices.

3 – Multiple Browsers

There are many web browsers available over a wide variety of operating systems. Most web browsers display a website in the same way, but it’s still important to thoroughly test your website using all of the popular browsers to make sure that it is accessible to the largest number of people. On computers running Windows, the vast majority of Internet users access the web from Internet Explorer, Firefox or Google Chrome. Macintosh users have a choice of Safari, Firefox, Chrome and more. Testing your site using as many browsers as possible is a great way of making sure that the largest number of visitors will be able to enjoy the same high-quality browsing experience when they visit your site.

Some web designers find it tempting to take advantage of all of the latest technology while forgetting about the fact that a lot of people will continue to use outdated browsers. While it’s never a good idea to use an outdated browser, web designers should still realize that this is very common practice regardless. The latest web design technologies include HTML5 and CSS3, for example. While any web designer should use them to provide the best user experience possible, it’s also not a bad idea to provide a compatible version for older browsers, since not every browser supports HTML5 and CSS3. The same is true of Flash technology. While some web designers like to build websites entirely designed in Flash, not every browser, especially mobile ones, will be able to access the website. If you insist on building a Flash website, you should always have a non-Flash version for the millions of surfers who can’t use it.

– Charles Jackson