Your Current Mobile Website Thinking Is Wrong

Based on my experience at the Internet Retailing Expo yesterday, it looks as though many companies, and “internet companies” are thinking that their mobile and desktop sites should be different.  However, hopefully Paul Boag‘s talk The Ideal Way To Do The M-Web will have changed their minds.

There was lots of talk about what users expect from the mobile site, and why content from the desktop site should / shouldn’t be included on the mobile site.

One speaker also mentioned that mobile visitors expect advanced features and great performance.  Some people even want to “replicate the the web experience on mobile.” And it was said like it was the most ludicrous suggestion ever.

Speakers also suggested making sure the mobile website was easy to navigate, and that it was quick to load, and that you should do everything you can to make it easy for mobile visitors.  Surely this should apply to the desktop as well.

Luke Wroblewski’s Mobile First book encourages thinking about the mobile device first, and suggests companies and designers to think about why people visit a website, and what they want from it, to provide a clean and useful experience.

Both the desktop and mobile sites should be easy and quick to use, with all the vital content and functionality, it shouldn’t be confined to the mobile version.

Matt “Wilto” Marquis  summed it up brilliantly last year with the quote:

“Mobile users want to see our menu, hours, and delivery number. Desktop users definitely want this 1mb png of someone smiling at a salad.”

As Jeremy Keith, and many others have said, there is no mobile web.

There is only the web, and how I access it is my choice, and how you serve me the content I’m looking for is your choice.  If I don’t have a pleasurable experience and can’t achieve my goals on your website, then you have failed.  Not me.  This applies whether I’m trying to read the news on the desktop PC in my home, or purchase your products on my commute into work on the train.

The underlying message of the talks yesterday made me think, that because there is money to be made by having separate desktop and mobile websites, that this is what companies are being told they need.

Companies need to listen to their customers, do the research and user testing, and embrace the Mobile First idea.  They will then see that Responsive Web Design is the way forward.

As Andy Clarke says,

Anything that’s fixed and unresponsive isn’t web design anymore, it’s something else. If you don’t embrace the inherent fluidity of the web, you’re not a web designer, you’re something else. Web design is responsive design, Responsive Web Design is web design, done right.

Remember as well, that the user’s context and motives for visiting a website can’t easily be identified either.  It’s no longer safe to assume that mobile visitors are on a bus, and laptop users are in an office.  Increasing numbers of mobile users use their phones to browse the web whilst at home over wifi.  Laptop users may be working on a train using a 3g dongle.

Luke Wroblewski has collected some astounding facts and figures regarding mobile usage, including Why Mobile Matters, and it’s data like this that should be pushing companies towards thinking more about their website as a whole, and not trying to separate it into a desktop and mobile site.

Stephanie Rieger summed it up brilliantly recently, with her articles entitled Mobile Users Don’t Do That, and The Best Browser Is The One You Have With You.

If you’re not thinking about the bigger picture, and are treating mobile and desktop differently, you’re wrong.

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