There is a false debate raging in the world of usability, among its scientific practitioners.
Some like Jakob Neilsen argue that mobile users and desktop users have different objectives. They contend that the only way to address these disparate needs is to create separate sites with different content structures. This multi-web approach places extra demands on designers and content producers. While it might seem like a boom to web developers, it is impractical to expect small businesses to manage multiple sites. Without small business participation the growth of online commerce will stall. Consumers will be disheartened by a patchwork that includes inadequate mobile specific sites; mobile apps with limited functionality; traditional desktop sites that do not translate to mobile; and poorly designed responsive sites.
Not only will we have two (or more) webs that narrowly focus on screen size, we will also have two classes for online commerce.
Smart phones and tablets are disruptive technologies. They upset the settled conventions of desktop usability. While some users remain wedded to large screens and others are mobile-only, many more are apt to access the web with multiple devices. It will take time for things to settle out. Meanwhile HTML5 and CSS3 have arrived in the nick of time and responsive design seems to be gaining steam.
The truth is that we are witnessing an evolution. Mobile technology is still changing. Sooner or later the web and users will adapt to the new realities. Judging by the pace at which changes is happening, I predict it will be sooner rather than later. I also predict that a single web solution will prevail.
If we accept these predictions as inevitable, it becomes easier to envision how things will be in this new era. Desktop users will accept a simplified landing page that might require an extra click to reach content. Meanwhile mobile users will adapt to new types of navigation so they access the same content available to PC users. As users adapt, usability experts will concoct new standards and designers will create presentations that incorporate them. It is already starting to happen.
Both sides in this debate should simply back off. Stop thinking about compromises and start thinking evolution.