1. Technology

Give Your Mobile Readers Options

Don't Force Only One View, Even if It's the Best View


USPS.com on iPod

USPS.com on iPod

Screen shot by J Kyrnin

There are two photos associated with this article, the USPS.com site on a mobile device (an iPod touch) and on a standard Web browser (Firefox). If you're looking at the mobile page, you'll see that there are only around 6 items on it. Contrast this with the full page which has all of those options, plus dozens more.

Don't get me wrong, I like the USPS mobile website. When I'm browsing on my iPod, most of the time the things on the mobile site are all I want to know. But sometimes they aren't.

Give Your Mobile Readers a Choice

The nice thing about the USPS.com website is that the mobile site has a link to the full site. So if I need to know how much it would cost to ship a 12oz package to Uzbekistan, I can switch to the full site and look it up. But if all I'm doing is tracking a package, I'm there right from the mobile site.

But many mobile websites don't offer this option. If you're browsing froma mobile device, you get the mobile version of the site. Period.

Mobile Sites are Useful, But You Have a Full Site for a Reason

The best designed mobile sites have the most commonly used pages and information in simple text links right from the first page - like USPS.com. But the best designed mobile sites don't assume that because the reader is visiting from a (possibly) less capable browser, that that makes them less interested in other parts of the site.

Smart designers give their readers a choice.

Rather than detecting mobile devices and then forcing the customer into a limited section of the site, you should give your readers an option to go back to the full site if they need or want to. You don't have to make it a huge link or promote it, after all, if you've chosen your site content well, most of the people visiting the mobile page will find what they're looking for without needing the full site. But those people who want more will be looking for the link. And if they can't find it, they'll avoid your site in the future.

Why Would Mobile Users Want to Use the Full Site?

As I said, if you design the mobile site well, only including the most popular pages and content, then most people won't want to use the full sized site. But there are a few situations where people will want the full site:

  • They can't find the content they need. As I mentioned with the USPS.com site, if I want to check prices for sending packages, I need to use the full site.
  • They don't find interesting content. This is similar to the first reason, but is more applicable to entertainment sites. If there are only 6-10 links on the mobile site, and they've read them all, then they might want to see the full site to see what other content you offer.
  • They are using a browser that can handle the full site. Just because people are browsing on a mobile device doesn't mean that that mobile browser isn't as full-featured as their PC counterparts. iPhone and iPod uses Safari, Android phones use Chrome, and many other smartphones use Opera. All of these browsers have ways of handling full sized websites in a small browser window.

If you've taken the time to create a mobile friendly page, kudos to you! Many Web designers don't take that extra step. And this does a lot to help mobile users use your website without a problem.

But if you've created one, give your power users the chance to opt out. Remember, that opting out doesn't have to be fancy like a cookie that forces them to always see the non-mobile site. Something as simple as a like like the USPS.com site has makes your site more flexible and easy to use.

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