The Myth of ‘on the go’ sites.

With the growing popularity of mobile web surfing there has been a push for businesses to create ‘simple’, ‘easy to use’ mobile websites. There are two schools of thought on mobile site design, those like me that think you should present the same options and data to a mobile user and those who think that people only use their smartphone ‘on the go’.

Let’s explore both.

How do you use your cell phone?

The ‘on the go’ mentality of mobile web design is under the impression that people only use websites while they are on the move. In Google’s 2012 report on mobile web usage, it states 96% to 99% of smartphone users in 6 major countries browse mobile websites at home. While only 83%-87% of those same people used their smartphone ‘on the go’. This is where the ‘on the go’ approach runs into to trouble. If 96% of people are browsing the website at home, it would stand to reason they have more time to spend and would favour a mobile website that is equipped with the full suite of functions like their desktop counterparts.

Since research has shown that the average smartphone user spends more than 2 hours a day using the device and an average of 25 minutes on the web, it’s easy to see why users would benefit from a fully functional site.

Keep your content by planning your navigation

A challenge most businesses face when creating a mobile website is deciding what features to remove and what to keep. It often comes down to what they can place in the navigation bar. Effective navigation should be your first concern when creating a mobile website. There is no point in having a visually appealing mobile site, only for users to desert it because they can’t find their way around.

However with that said, mobile sites need to be clear and punchy since they are dealing with the challenge of a smaller screen size. I don’t like using the word ‘simple’, since the word it can means two things; often easy to use but also lacking in features.

An example of an overly simple mobile site is Fandango. Their mobile website is a classic ‘on the go’ website. It is by no means hard to use, however it lacks the functionality of the original website and despite giving access to the most common features, it neglects to include other features like the movie calendar that could have been easily converted to mobile and somehow you can’t help but feel like this is a missed opportunity. Perhaps this hasn’t been included because people won’t want this ‘on the go’ but as previously mentioned, many mobile users aren’t always using their mobile while ‘on the go’.

Facebook Mobile Screen Shot
Facebook Mobile Screen Shot
Fandango Mobile Wesite
Fandango Mobile Wesite

A common trend in mobile sites currently is the slide out panel menu. This is very effective for websites or applications with a large amount of content and has been used by Facebook in its mobile platform. The slide out panel is a way to include a greater amount of content on the site and the simple list navigation allows the site to have an attractive home page instead of sacrificing it for navigation. There are 10 links listed, in almost the same amount of space. It also creates two interconnected user experiences for the viewer inside the site, consuming content and finding content. This gives you more room to experiment with navigation.

The on the go site isn’t needed anymore.

So with that the question needs to be asked: what’s stopping mobile developers from giving their users the best of both worlds. Home pages are the main hub of most websites, you can add simple attractive ‘quick links’ from the home page, giving the sought after ‘on the go’ functionality.

Additionally, by making use of effective navigation techniques like slide navigation panels, no functionality needs to be removed and your users can enjoy every aspect of your website from the comfort of their phone, without having to sacrifice usability. Now that’s definitely a win-win. If you’re considering a mobile website for your business or making one yourself, hopefully this will provide some food for thought and let you plan an effective way for people to view your website when on mobile devices.