The rewrite of Discount Tire's website wasn't executed as a 'responsive' or 'adaptive' design. While those terms (particularly the the former), are starting to become ubiquitous today, when we started development nearly two years ago, they were a little more on the cutting edge. The concept felt right, ideal even, but there was very little industry experience with it. In fact, when I showed the demo I'd made to folks around the office, most had never seen anything like it.

Despite how simple and pure the concept seemed, executing it at the time seemed like a difficult balance. IE7 & IE8 accounted for the majority of our traffic, Javacript was turned off for about 3-4% of visitors (which at our volume is a lot of customers), and there were still some blackberries on the site at the time. I wanted to minimize transferred bytes for mobile visitors and we had to deliver a good experience for those non-js vistiors.

In early 2010, when I started developing the framework for a mobile web experience for Discount Tire, there were two approaches to choose from. The traditional, typical route at the time was to build and maintain an independent mobile site. The emerging new hotness would very soon be coined 'responsive web design'. I struggled mightily with that choice. Here's what I was thinking.

Avoiding m.ediocri.ty

Mobile sites in general were still pretty weak back then. Lots and lots of companies would redirect iPhone and Android visitors to their cool new m. domain. There we'd often find a handful of the full site's main features, maybe less, laid out so the links to call a store were nice, big, easy-to-tap buttons. Great. Unfortunately, just as often the real content of the site was grossly pruned leaving an unsatisfying shell. Developing all that content twice is a huge commitment, a huge pain, and many sites just didn't bother.