Mobile…Think back to May 2015…….. Google rolls out an initiative to penalise websites that aren’t legible on a mobile device. There were a few high profile casualties: The EU website, BA to name a couple, the media dubbed this “Mobilgeddon!”, as if this was a giant meteorite that had come to kill us all. But most of the Internet survived, and the sites that got Google’s slap on the wrist quickly did some fast follow up projects that just about got them over the line.
Why did Google do this? Because over half of the Internet is consumed on a mobile device. Most websites get there traffic by either social or search, and Google did not want to be responsible for you having a cruddy experience on a website they recommended. Makes sense.
But “Mobilgeddon!” hasn’t solved the issue. We still haven’t got it right for mobile devices. Look at the most recent Black Friday event, 56% of traffic from sites running Black Friday promotions came from mobile devices but only 35% of total sales came from mobile devices. Yes, there is an argument to say culturally we aren’t there yet for e-commerce on mobile or quite simply people like to browse on the mobile but do the act of actually purchasing that item on a desktop. But I can’t help ask the question “Are we doing this mobile thing right?”
Most sites have responsive web designs (RWD), meaning that the website layout changes dependent on how many pixels or “break points” are available on the screen of the device. This method of design has been around for a few years, it replaced the traditional methods of either having an M.site (a different website designed only for a mobile screen size which you would simply redirect to when a mobile device accesses) which could be costly or just not giving a crap and accepting that your users don’t get a great mobile experience. RWD isn’t really anything new, I was still surprised to hear about how many sites weren’t ready for the Google mobile D-Day.
So does cramming a desktop experience on a mobile device work?
This is something I am edging closer and closer to saying ‘no’ to. I hear a lot of support for RWD: in various roles I would hear “the experience must be the same on mobile as it is on desktop!”, as if someone will look at your site on a mobile whilst looking at the desktop site and say “That is a consistent experience, thank you”. You don’t see your friends tweeting “Just been on this amazing mobile site that is the same experience on desktop!”. I also hear a lot of companies say “mobile first” but don’t actually look at their product on a mobile device.
I want to put something out there, how about we make the best experience on mobile and the best experience on desktop. Instead of this one size fits all mentality, there is so much heat mapping data out there to show that the mobile fold similar to desktop is much higher than you think. So how the hell will stacking every content item in a long column do anything other than become an elephants graveyard of content and features? I would love to know the average distance our fingers walk on a mobile screen a day.
Ironically a lot of media sites are now opting to switch to a method very similar to the M.Site approach where they limit the amount of content under the users noise. Facebook have product teams for brand type. Yes, the key to optimisation is to optimise for the user, the device, and the environment. Each one in isolation will leave incomplete sales and content that never gets seen.