Mobile websites should be more than just the basics

I get tired of coming across a decent mobile site only to find that I have to use the desktop version to do what I intended. We should stop accepting ‘best practice’ as an argument for stripping back mobile websites to just the basics of their desktop counterparts. The screen isn’t the optimum size but it doesn’t mean that people won’t continue to read that whole article they were interested in on their mobile. The alternative isn’t exactly convenient – waiting until they got home, remembering they wanted to read, turning on their desktop computer and finding the article again.

I use my mobile more than my laptop at home – I use it for everything that I would use my computer for and the only inhibitor is if a website simply does not function on a mobile (worse still are mobile websites that don’t work on mobile – like AirAsia.com). I read long articles, I buy things (my last purchase on my mobile was £185), I make payments through my bank’s website, I write long emails. The list could go on and on.

This is all anecdotal however and it’s worth looking at some evidence to support the idea that people do actually use their mobile for more than just specific tasks, in short bursts and while ‘on the go’ and that the content of mobile websites should be more representative of the desktop version. Mobile isn’t just about the basics.

Context

Context is often used as an excuse for stripping back the desktop site on a mobile. Context is important, and it is different to desktop but that doesn’t necessarily mean mobile users only use their mobiles in short bursts of activity.  People use their mobiles throughout the day and not just ‘on the go’ for specific tasks – 67% of mobile users use their mobile while lying in bed, 47% while waiting for something and 25% while commuting.

None of these contexts suggest short bursts of activity around specific tasks. Rather it is idle time being filled – arguably time better suited to research or reading long articles or making payments.

Mobile only                                                                                   

A convincing statistic is that 25% of UK mobile web users exclusively access the Internet through web enabled mobile devices and not computers.  That number only increases when looking at developing countries. There is no alternative to their mobile whether it is an optimum experience or not.

Time spent using mobiles

Looking at the time spent on different devices each day gives an indication that people are spending longer on their mobiles each day.  US adults spend more time on mobile devices than they do on print – 1h on mobile each day compared to 44 minutes on newspapers and magazines. Admittedly, mobile use may not have occurred in one continuous stretch and could still have been made up of many small bursts of activity.

High value purchases

High value, considered purchases made on mobile devices may indicate people performing more time intensive and engaging tasks on mobile devices. On ebay, vehicles are the top category of product purchased in the UK on mobile devices – a vehicle is bought via mobile every 5 minutes. The most expensive item purchased was a Bentley for £95,938.

Stripping back your mobile website to the basics because you don’t believe people will want to do anything more follows the same flawed argument as luxury brands that didn’t sell online at all because they couldn’t believe that anyone would spend £500 on a handbag online.

Popularity of time intensive websites and apps

Usage of the Guardian app had 400,000 downloads within 6 months of launch and their mobile website accounts for more than 10% of total site visits.  They show their full articles on both their app and mobile site – not just a synopsis.

BBC iplayer sees around 13 million requests per month (around 9% of all requests) from a mobile device. They show full TV and radio programs, not just the first few minutes.

 

I do agree that mobile usage is often different to desktop and that the mobile site is necessarily different in behaviour and priorities because of the limited screen size. But it shouldn’t be assumed that mobile users wouldn’t want to do everything on the mobile site that they do on the desktop. Don’t assume they will wait until they get home to return to your site in a more optimum environment. Mobile shouldn’t mean less, it shouldn’t mean over-simplified and it shouldn’t mean hurried.

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