A recent report from dotMobi has documented the staggering rise in the number of mobile websites in the past two years.
From 2008 to 2010 the number of mobile compatible websites grew from 150,000 to 3.01 million. For the stats hungry playing along at home, that’s apparently a 2000% increase. Yes. 2000%.
Of the Alexa.com top 1000 sites, 40.1% are mobile friendly as are 29.7% of the top 10,000. There’s more info here on the report if you’re interested.
This is all very good. I’m firmly in the camp that argues brands need to have a distinct mobile version of their web presence to ensure positive experiences for their customers. Browsing on the mobile web is a different beast from web browsing. Along with the unique capabilities and design parameters native to mobile devices, customer habits and expectations are different when they’re browsing on their mobile phone.
If you’re reading this closely, however, you’ll notice I used the phrases ‘mobile compatible’ and ‘mobile friendly’ to characterize the findings from the study. At first pass, these may seem like minor variations of the same thing – a matter of preference, really. I believe they’re not and that’s why I want to issue a call for some standardization – or at least consistency – around mobile website description [read on to find out why…].
I’ve found there are 4 main ways mobile websites are described:
- Mobile Accessible
- Mobile Compatible
- Mobile Friendly
- Mobile Optimized
In most cases, these terms are used fairly interchangeably.
If you’re asking “what difference does it make,” consider this: Any HTML website could be ‘mobile accessible’ if it displays fully on a mobile browser (vs. any site using Flash which won’t work on nearly all phones). However, a website designed only with PC browsing in mind will be poorly formatted for the mobile screen, require significant and unnecessary user actions to discover relevant content and will likely have a massive amount of content which is simply irrelevant to a mobile browsing customer…to name just some of the problems.
A ‘mobile accessible’ website is unlikely how you want your company to be portrayed and perceived or the type of experience you want to serve up to your customers.
In the interests of injecting greater precision into the conversation around mobile web experiences, I’ve drafted the following mobile website segmentation. Let’s consider this a baseline definition exercise, open to revision as technology and mobile experience sophistication evolves.
1. Mobile Accessible
A mobile ‘accessible’ site is one where a visitor can get all the content and all design elements are displayed. However, the design and content strategy is indistinct from the PC version and the mobile browsing experience is poor or frustrating.
Example: Do a random Google search on your phone and take your pick.
2. Mobile Compatible
A mobile ‘compatible’ site is one that is formatted for mobile browsers/browsing. It uses mobile friendly programming languages and a design approach that exploits mobile gestures and minimizes content load times. There is a content architecture that considers a mobile customer’s context, interest and intent. Your site is hosted as a sub domain on your primary URL and device detection should be implemented to recognize mobile users. Some search and/or sharing features are also in place. Mobile-specific analytics are in place to track site performance and customer behaviour.
Good Example: http://m.cnn.com
3. Mobile Friendly
A mobile ‘friendly’ site is one that builds on the mobile-centric design, content and analytics practices begun in the mobile ‘compatible’ category. Device detection has definitely been added to deliver versions that cater to the unique screen size and processing capabilities of the many distinct operating systems and screen types and sizes available. Search and social sharing features are tightly integrated and resolve themselves in an equally mobile friendly way. Transactional capabilities and/or account authentication that allows for a personalized experience (if relevant to your business) have been implemented. There is also a customer feedback or support mechanism.
4. Mobile Optimized
A mobile ‘optimized’ website takes all the best practices from mobile ‘friendly’ design and layers in features that are only available with certain programming languages (HTML 5 in particular) to access supported advanced device capabilities (HD content, location, camera, accelerometer, etc…) to deliver a rich and immersive experience.
Good Example: http://m.youtube.com
(Built w. HTML5. Not currently taking advantage of all the capabilities but a good place to watch for innovation).
A couple other notes:
- For the time being at least, any site using Flash is not mobile anything. True, some operating systems and devices do support Flash but it still bogs down the browsing experience and is not yet ready for mobile primetime.
- Pinch and zoom should not be considered an acceptable user gesture. It is at best a stop gap excuse for mobile accessible sites still figuring out their design and content strategy. It is clumsy and asks already fickle mobile customers to do far too much to get where they want to go.
Those who know more about mobile programming than I seem to be in favour of HTML5 becoming the de facto mobile web programming standard. However, that means this segmentation automatically precludes most of the best mobile websites around today from being more than ‘mobile friendly’.
Frankly, that’s okay. I think being ‘mobile friendly’ is a great place to be and if we had most marketers pushing for ‘mobile friendly’ status the mobile universe would be vastly improved. Mobile ‘optimized’ is such a strong term that it should remain a stretch target allowing for evolution and revolution that takes full advantage of device capabilities.
I hope you’ll join me in adopting this language for describing mobile websites. Consistency in this conversation will help drive up design and experience standards and create reference points for marketers gauging the maturity of their mobile presence.
But first, did I miss any common phrases for describing mobile websites? Do you agree with my characterizations?
Did you get to the end of this post before checking your own website on your mobile phone…?
- jcdunn posted this