Why Are “Mobile” Websites So Badly Designed?!

I am fortunate enough to have a whizzy smartphone, which has become my main way of accessing the internet. I use it to access the internet much more than I use it to make calls. I have had a smartphone for about two years now, and it has become indispensible. (Well, that’s how it feels. True, the world doesn’t seem to end the moment I switch it off. But if it did, I would read about it on Twitter…)

Naturally enough, though, I have a couple of gripes.

The first is the large number of websites that default to a mobile version. Without asking me. I have a smartphone. It can render full internet content. If I want to look at the mobile version of your website – and there are times I might want to – then give me the choice. Don’t make me go there whether I want to or not – it just pisses me off, and makes me go else where.

The second is how badly mobile websites are designed. They have many of the functions I want – the opt-out of mobile mode (not, note, opt-in) and the search function, mostly – at the bottom of the page. So I have to scroll through a whole website just to switch to the normal site. WordPress does this, Twitter does this, Facebook does this. They all bloody do it, and it pisses me off!

The WordPress mobile site. At the bottom...

...and mobile Twitter. At the bottom...

I’m a user, not a technologist. Maybe they are technical reasons why all the useful stuff is put at the bottom of the page, making me do all the work to find it, rather than usefully putting it at the top where I can go right to it.

But it makes no sense to me.


12 thoughts on “Why Are “Mobile” Websites So Badly Designed?!

      1. MatGB

        If you can install, both Opera Mobile and Opera Mini have options to pretend to be a real browser, so you can always see the non mobile version if you want, on some sites that’s a real godsend, but it does need faffing around with zoom a bit at times.

        1. patrickhadfield Post author

          I had Opera on my last phone but didn’t really warm to it, and ended up deleting it. Maybe I should give it anothrr go.

          Now, if there were Firefox for Android…

  1. MatGB

    There is a technical reason, but it’s mostly not done for that as the pages that do it tend to not care about it or do other stupid things relating to it anyway.

    It’s essentially search optimisation–you want the most important content at the top of the page as search engines (well, Google) rank stuff nearer the top as more important than stuff down the bottom.

    But given that many of these sites have huge badly constructed menues at the top anyway that Really shouldn’t be there, that’s not a good excuse, and Facebook doesn’t care about SEO anyway.

    To be honest, I don’t think mobile versions are really needed anyway, not a different redirected one anyway, what is needed is much better use, and awareness, of different @media stylesheets so that @screen is loaded for standard PCs but not for other uses.

    My old Sony featurephones could run Opera Mini, which much preferred standard to mobile sites, and that was back in 2005/2006, when smartphones and large screens weren’t ubiquitous.

    Essentially, mobile versions shouldn’t exist, but mobile stylesheets should.

    And navigation menues apart from the very basics should be at the end of the HTML, but placed at the top using CSS–both Livejournal and Dreamwidth are very good for this, and frankly if LJ can do it and understand why, then no other site has an excuse (it’s good for search, usability and accessibility all at once, which is why Big Media doesn’t bother from what I can tell).

    My biggest bugbear is the BBC FWIW, fixed width columns that don’t display at all well on a phone, with no link to the (actually pretty good) mobile version of the same story. Blogspot powered sites are just dire.

    1. patrickhadfield Post author

      Sorry, I missed this yesterday! Thank for rhe exolanation.

      I don’t understand why people think they are necessary, either.

      And I’m with you on fixed width columns, too!


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