The Pros And Cons Of Optimizing For Mobile

By Daniel Scocco

Last week I run a poll asking people if they were used to browsing the web on a mobile device, and the result is shown below:

mobile-poll

The results are inline with what I expected. The audience here is made of bloggers and tech-savvy people, so it’s natural that a high percentage of them use mobile devices to browse the web regularly.

What encouraged me to run that poll was an email from a reader complaining about the lack of a mobile version of my website. In a way I wanted more data before making a decision.

So will I create a mobile friendly version now that I have some numbers? Probably no, and that is because I still think the cons of doing so out-weight the pros. Consider that a mobile version of a blog is usually a screen which displays only the content of the posts, much like an RSS reader. The pros of using it are:

  • The user can read your latest posts more easily.
  • The readability is better.
  • The pages might load faster.

And the cons:

  • It becomes harder to find content other than the latest posts.
  • The branding/visual aspect is lost.
  • The user has less control regarding how to navigate the site.
  • The user won’t see parts of your website that might be important (e.g., ads, subscription forms and so on)

If your website is relatively clean, though, and you consider that most smartphones are coming out with decent screen resolutions, you’ll see that the pros of using a mobile friendly version become less important.

For instance, many readers commented that this site displays fine on the iPhone 4, and that they don’t have problems reading the content or browsing around.

So in my opinion optimizing for the early mobile devices could have made a big difference (i.e., 2-3 years ago), but there weren’t many people using them anyway, so you could skip it. These days there are a lot more people accessing the Internet via mobile devices, but most of these devices feature good screen resolutions, allowing the users to browse websites normally. As a result, optimizing for mobile might not be that important anymore.

This is true for content based websites, at least. For service oriented ones (e.g., a social network or an online store) mobile optimization might be more critical.

Thoughts?



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21 Responses to “The Pros And Cons Of Optimizing For Mobile”

  • Sheila @ Avaguide

    It really is critical because we need to make a website design that a mobile clearly presents. Some use mobile because just like its meaning, you can bring it anywhere and browse anywhere.

  • carolee Sperry a.k.a. The Blogging Biz Mom

    I had the same comment and assumed it was spam…

    I also got one where they couldn’t view my site in Opera, another in Firefox (which is what I have :-)………

  • Nick Stamoulis

    If you have content online that warrants mobile, you should optimize for mobile! Mobile is the way of the world these days, and if you can give yourself a bit of a boost this way, it’s a good idea.

    • Sleepless

      How would you classify an iPad? Mobile or not? The interaction is different (I almost wrote limited), but the resolution is rather high.

      If you have to adapt to basic mobile, smartphone and tablet, you’ll spend all of your time doing that. And what about customization according to speed? Edge visitors can’t affort the same data volume that 3G or DSL visitors.

      The technology is evolving, may be you should wait for a more stable phase.

      • Web Marketing Tips

        there is difference between ipad and smart phone. In today’s world maximum people can afford smart phones (thanks to local mobile manufacturer) but ipad is still limited.

  • Web Marketing Tips

    what i like about your website on monile is its download fast compare to other websites and i think this is the big advantage.

  • Mike @ Blog Success Resource

    I personally like to read blogs on laptop or computer or not on iPhone so this would not matter. But, I guess when you are famous as daily blog tips, many readers may want this feature to make sure they can read it even when they are out.

    I think it is a personal choice of blogger though, we can not make everyone happy.

    • Web Marketing Tips

      this is quite important that you should provide different options to your readers. Few of your readers wants to save to save their time.

  • jason

    I’m not that aggressive of an online browser, so I just use my laptop, but not surprised by results.

    I’m more of a recreational user, so I don’t tend to be
    too aggressive with online browsing. But I do see the
    benefits

    • Web Marketing Tips

      mobile browsing can save your good amount of time. Believe me, try this out when you are on move.

  • rich

    I’ve discovered recently that many of the mobile themes available for WordPress are, well, a bit ugly, if not downright useless.

    I’ve tried a couple out, but they make my site look like it came from 1998 or something, and none of them play nice with the way that Thesis, my main theme, handles post images, ie. I’m missing post images on the mobile version completely, so if you like just reading text without any kind of visual elements or slick design, you’re in luck.

    The regular Thesis version looks OK on the iPhone, so I may just strip out all the mobile ‘optimisation’ and just go with that for now.

  • Dinesh @ DailyBlogMoney

    A blog contains lots of interlinks, categories and specially comments too. I’m not sure people will be using mobile phones to access these all parts in a blog.

    May be its suitable for news websites, twitter or any sites you can read and close in one click.

    As you said latest mobile devices supports full web site browsing normally, not like earlier that you had to have specific mobile version.

    I’m sure you took the correct decision Daniel.

  • Ivan Walsh

    Hi Daniel,

    A clear understanding of your target audience helps.

    If your blog is very technical with large information graphics – and slow download speeds – then you need to see how you can design the content to make it worth the readers time.

    And worth the price!

    The package I have with my mobile provider is partly based on data volumes, ie the size of the web pages determines how much I pay per month.

    I’ve noticed I tend to go to mobile sites with simple designs that download fast. Cost is probably a factor in how/why I choose these sites.

    Make sense?

    • Daniel Scocco

      Yeah I agree it depends completely on the audience.

      • Web Marketing Tips

        i think site of daniel load fast and since this one very minimum graphics than you can expect it load fast and consume our less internet bill as well.

  • Himanshu Chanda

    The points you have raised are very valid. Mobiles are now rushing towards delivering the whole web soon. But still My vote goes for mobile sites (And I have read many a times how much you dislike optimizing for the mobile).

    The reason behind this is that though mobiles will deliver websites as they are without breaking them what we need to understand is that the base reason why these sites were made was not mobile, also the small screen really cant deliver the impact one requires until its “made for mobile”.

    Having given a choice I might rather go for an app rather than a mobile optimized site

  • Jason

    Personally, I HATE when blogs “optimize” for mobile devices. I’m on an iPhone and I’d much rather pinch and swipe my way to what I need rather than be limited to this linear (and very often, limited) list most “optimized” mobile sites opt for.

    • Web Marketing Tips

      but today i think you will be able to see all kind of websites or blogs perfectly on mobile.

      I mean you can easily browse all the contents which want to read.

    • Sleepless

      Yes, but the point is that an iPhone is slightly better than the average mobile device… Oops, did I say that loud?

      • Web Marketing Tips

        my choice is qwerty keypad and that should not be in screen.

        But however iphone is iphone you can not compare it.

  • Matt Gio

    I guess it really depends on what type of blog you have. The Huffington Post is a blog (sort of) and I used a mobile app to read that in the morning because it has news. A blog about a specific niche really doesn’t need an app (even though I have one for mine).

    I’d agree that as long as your blog is clean, there is really no need for mobile version. Plus sometimes mobile versions of sites annoy me like Twitter and Food Network. I’d rather just visit the whole site. There is much more information that way.

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