Flawed Mobile Website Logic: Usability Gets Tossed Out the Window

I love my Motorola ATRIX smartphone, with all its accessories and toys. It is ideal for traveling, and convenient to use around home, but it’s not always so great for web surfing, and it has nothing to do with the phone. I found the same thing happened with my iPhone. The problem is mobile versions of websites. Many of them are so bad, I can’t use them, and now, I refuse to use them. Why?
Here are some of the issues:

Automatically Redirecting Mobile Users

Don’t get me wrong. I understand why sites automatically redirect mobile users to the mobile version of their site, and almost every big website with a mobile version does this, but it’s a huge pain in the backside. First of all, if I use a regular, Firefox browser on my phone’s Lapdock, it still redirects me to the mobile version of the site. The real issue is that I never get the option to go to the regular website. This means I can’t take advantage of my phone’s capabilities.
Now, I realize not everyone has the same phone as me, so this doesn’t necessarily apply, but it also means regular mobile users have to deal with a number of other issues…

Providing Fewer Options

Mobile sites are optimized specifically to give users the most important information. For instance, popular blogs cut out all the extra ads, sidebars, and extra information. This way, I only get the latest headlines and can easily consume content. But what about all the additional information I can’t access?
There’s nothing more frustrating than going through my RSS reader or clicking a link on Twitter, only to be told I can’t access the post or picture because it wasn’t included in the mobile design.

Failing to Offer Options

So many mobile websites get so focused on ‘giving ‘em the goods’ that they forget about usability basics. There’s no way to access contact information, go to a different category, leave a comment, read more about the company, or access the shopping cart. Now, I don’t know about you, but if I can’t find these things, my stay on a website is usually pretty short, particularly if I’m using my phone to shop online. In fact, I’d sooner play around zooming content in and out, and paging to find what I need, rather than fight trying to interact with a company. Believe it or not, Facebook is one of the biggest culprits of this I encounter.

Compatibility and Website Fails

Unlike browsers, phones work very differently. You can’t just build one standard site and expect it to work for everyone. In fact, I couldn’t even imagine how much testing you’d have to do to make a 100% compatible website. However, nothing is more frustrating than being forced to use a mobile website that doesn’t work. Think it only happens to small business owners or small websites? Nope. Lifehacker and Gizmodo are two of the sites I find it almost impossible to access beyond the home page.

Multiple Links

Nothing is more frustrating than to be going down the highway and end up going to 5 other pages I didn’t want to go to (which eats up my data!) in an attempt to get directions for a store, a phone number, or some other tidbit of information. The biggest reason why this happens is because whoever designed the mobile website never once thought about smartphone users having a touchscreen. They compile a whole list of links, with one or two word anchor text, all into an area the size of my pinky finger. I have enough trouble typing and using a touch screen without the extra help. Having links like this is almost standard on a regular website, but a mobile version? Now THAT is frustrating.

Paying attention to usability when you create a mobile website is an absolute must. And if you have an ecommerce site, I think usability of the mobile version is far more important than that of a regular website because visitors searching for your site so they can visit or buy from you! You’re killing hot leads. The other solution is to give mobile users the opportunity to visit the regular version of your website, even if it’s just giving users a link in the footer of your site.

Have you encountered any of these issues while using your mobile phone?


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