Allowing Users to Select Mobile or Desktop Views

My jQuery Mobile/ASP.NET MVC site,, began as a pure jQuery Mobile site. I then added a desktop view and automatically switched users to the appropriate view depending on their device. This works pretty well – especially with the 51Degrees NuGet to improve on the built-in device detection – but even so, there are occasions when the automated detection fails. Someone with a new device comes to the site, the device isn’t recognized, and the user ends up with the wrong version.

This bugs me.

Or, to be more accurate – what bugs me is that there’s no way for the user to change to the appropriate view.

That’s is the problem with automatic device detection: it’s fine until it doesn’t work. Then you’re stuck. So the answer, obviously, is to provide the user with a means to override the default device detection. They need a button that lets them switch to the other view.

The problem is – how to override the detection and automatic version selection, especially since I am relying on a 3rd party tool to do the detection for me? Fortunately, there is a solution in the form of another NuGet: jQuery Mobile MVC. Scott Hanselman blogs about it here. It’s an excellent solution to the problem… but the sample view user control provided in the NuGet needs a little tweaking if it’s going to solve the specific problem I outlined above.

First, let’s take a look at the NuGet and what it does for us. So let’s install it:

If you don’t already have a mobile specific .layout file, then the install gives you a basic version with associated CSS etc. designed for mobile devices:

And right at the top of the mobile view is the output (“Displaying mobile view Desktop View”) from a view user control, _ViewSwitcher. This control is really what the NuGet is all about.

Clicking on the link leads the user off to a small controller, ViewSwitcherController, with the single method SwitchView:

So… if you are in a mobile device, you get a choice between the mobile and the desktop view. When you click on the link, it sets the BrowserOverride and the user is given the view of their choice rather than the default. Nice.

It’s very neatly done… except that it doesn’t actually solve the problem I started out with. My problem was – what to do about a mobile device that wasn’t picked up as a mobile device… and this code wouldn’t solve that problem.   It will only display the choice of view to devices that the system already thinks are mobile devices. A mobile device that isn’t detected won’t get any option to switch to a mobile view – even if the _ViewSwitcher control is added to the desktop version. The problem is in the first if statement:

Only recognized mobile devices get the links. I want a user with an unrecognized mobile device to be able to select the mobile view. So in my version, I remove the outer if statement and also some of the ancillary text so that I can use the links as part of the menus. Also, because both versions of the site make extensive use of Ajax, I explicitly redirect the user to the home page when they switch view (otherwise, they might end up getting a partial page):

With this small tweak, I now have links in both the mobile and the desktop versions that seamlessly allow the user to override the default selection and switch between the different views:

Now I just need to do something about that bottom menu, as it’s getting too bulky. Time to upgrade to jQuery Mobile 3 and put the navigation in a panel. Onwards….

Kevin Rattan

For other related information, check out this course from Learning Tree:

Building Web Applications with ASP.NET MVC

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