The Reason Your Mobile Website Sucks
Saturday, 18th August 2012
When I wrote The Reason Your Website Sucks, mobile websites were nowhere near as prominent as they are today. Otherwise, I would have included the following advice in respect of the monster we have created for people who browse on their mobile phones and tablets.
First and foremost, let's look at some of the common mobile experiences.
An incredibly common strategy is to redirect your visitors to a dedicated mobile site. This sounds like a great idea because every design decision made on this mobile site can be mobile-focussed and every design decision made on the full site can ignore mobile devices. Sadly, though, this is an awful idea.
In almost all cases of full-site vs mobile-site, the mobile-site has something missing. Whether it is information, features, navigation, images or entire pages - anything that is missing from your mobile site is going to frustrate your users. I recently visited an online store on my mobile and instead of a "Buy Now" button, I had a message saying I couldn't buy on the mobile site. Fail.
Mobile websites also fail with device detection. They seem to have been designed with two computers in mind. Big desktop or tiny phone. As we all know, the point at which a mobile turns into a tablet is a grey area with really big phones and really small tablets on the market. This is also true of the point at which tablets cross over with desktop machines and notebooks and laptops and televisions and kiosks and who knows what else they are about to install a browser on! Why do I get redirected to a mobile website when I am using a tablet with 1024 x 768 resolution? Or even my tiny phone for that matter, when it has been designed with zooming and flowing to make normal websites look just fine.
If you continue the "mobile-site" concept in 2012, you need to create 10 variations not two, because the considerations are many - size, orientation, bandwidth, inputs: it gets as bad as creating native apps for all the different devices.
The other problem with the redirect is that when I share the link via email or social networks, people visiting the mobile site from a desktop get presented with the mobile website. For some reason, you only ever get redirected to the rubbish mobile site - when you are using a non-mobile device you don't get redirected to the proper full website.
If you want to give people a good experience on mobile, you need to go responsive and that means bandwidth as well as layout.
People want the full-website experience no matter what device they are using. Give them a smaller download, enhance the website for different size devices by all means, but give up on running one "mobile" site and one "desktop" site.