This Is Why I Don’t Believe In Optimizing for Mobile Devices


A couple of years ago we saw the trend of “mobile optimization” emerge. People started urging us about the importance of optimizing our sites for mobile devices, about creating versions for the iPhone and other mobile phones and so on. There were even companies that created a business model around this idea.

I wrote about it, but I never really bought into it. In fact early in 2009 I had already written a post titled Do We Really Need to Optimize Our Sites for Mobile Phones?.

One year later I still defend the position that optimizing for mobile devices is not really necessary. Not because people are not using these devices to access the web. They are. But most mobile and smart phones these days work pretty much like portable computers, with fully compatible browsers. The resolution is not great yet, but we are getting there.


I got inspired to talk about this issue again after my little brother came hope with an iPod touch. Once I grabbed it to play a little I connected to our wifi spot and opened Daily Blog Tips. To my surprise the website was loading fine, and it was perfectly possible to navigate around and read all the posts. And that is an iPod touch. Imagine what you’ll be able to do with the iPad or the coming smart phones.

In other words, I don’t believe we’ll see the rise of a “mobile web”, with separate protocols and websites. I believe we’ll continue using the “traditional web,” even though we’ll certainly start using new and mobile devices to access it. Sure there will be new applications and features that mobile connectivity makes possible (e.g., Foursquare), but overall the good ol’ web will remain as the core network.


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40 Responses to “This Is Why I Don’t Believe In Optimizing for Mobile Devices”

  • Torkild

    In my mind a mobile optimised site is required in most instances.

    I don’t like reading a newspaper through a letterbox and in most cases this is what you do when browsing a normal site on a smartphone.
    Also having to zoom and scroll up-down-left-right you are likely to get lost or at least frustrated because you can’t find what you want quickly.

    And as a user you would not want to pay for the downloaded data you don’t need on a mobile (not everyone have an ‘all-you-can-eat’ data package) and you want it to load fast and reliably when you are out and about and no wi-fi!

    In front of a computer you are in a ‘Browser’ mode and have a bit of extra time but on the phone you are ‘on-the-go’ and want the information without all the ads etc.

    Sure thing some users may want to view the main pages which in that case it is simply to have a button to allow the users to switch. Simples!

  • Mobile Web Expert

    I’ve just tried this site out on my iPhone 4 and it took almost a minute to load.

    Despite the long wait, the experience wasn’t that bad once the page had loaded. I didn’t have to zoom in and I only had to scroll vertically – which was good. After having to aim very carefully, I managed to click the intended side link. But given that it took so long to load, I wouldn’t visit your site again on my iPhone, nor visit any of the linked sites.

    The site does actually render better than most desktop sites I come across on my iPhone – which is a plus for your site but, from my experience, most sites are much worse.

    Also, even if your site is of an acceptable standard on iPhones (and possibly Blackberrys) – what about everyone else on ‘normal’ phones?

  • SEO Marc

    These mobile phones are being used to access the net more often. It is not about optimizing the way our site looks but making sure our “ads” show up and the affiliate links work. Mobile does not track “cookies” nor reads standard Adsense (you need mobile Adsense).

    So how can money be made via mobile??

    Hopefully the affiliate companies will cross breed their links and be optimized for both mobile & standard net access without us having to change code around and such.

    – Marc

  • MArk

    How the heck can you switch back to the normal site? I detest mobi sites

  • Taneya

    As an avid Droid user, I would have to respectfully disagree with this post. As others have mentioned, there are many apps available that make it quite easy to modify your site to the mobile format. When I visit your site on my phone for example, all I want to do is read the blog posts and have access to a few key pages (About, Contact, Categories, Archives for example). With a program like WPTouch, it takes about 10 minutes to set-up and customize and it delivers your content to me in a way that is streamlined. I don’t use my smartphone for websites b/c I want to enjoy the aesthetics. I use my smartphone to access websites for the information. So, I think it’s important to present that information in the most streamlined format possible especially since it’s so easy to do!

  • Kent @ Leawo

    In my opinion, the optimization for mobile devices depends on the mobile service varying by countries. For example, Chinamobile introduces WAP sites, a compact version of the normal WEB sites, to reduce bandwidth usage, lower the cost dependent on data flow, achieve fast web browsing in 2G network and match the small screen of most cellphones. Besides, though nowadays, we can access website on mobile devices as we normally do on PC, there are still differences. For example, iPod/iPhone doesn’t intend to support Adobe Flash. That means, your flash sites will look dazzling on PC, but totally disastrous on iPod/iPhone. In this sense, optimizing websites for mobile devices is necessary about improving user experience or at least making them comfortable. This is the exact reason for doing it.

  • l8rm8e

    10 years ago the best advice was to keep your pages lean and clean, cater for low bandwidth AND low resolution screens … or arbitrarily limit your audience.

    A mobile device usually comes with a low resolution and the price of bandwidth for mobile devices is arguably a rip-off.

    That advice still stands firm.

  • Web Marketing Tips

    Sounding very good to me and I am sure many bloggers will stop worrying about their mobile presence after reading your post.

  • ppc tips

    We’re all going to need glasses. Those tiny ads are nearly useless.

  • Nicole Simon

    Considering that you do not need to optimize for a mobile because ipod touch looks fine is a very simple view of the world.

    Obviously you do not use mobile very much, because yes those iphones and co do display it great, as does my little pda and even my nokia: I have to scroll around a bit to see everything, but I could see your layout.

    But the point is: I do not want to see them when I am on mobile except when I choose to – because on mobile very often you just do not have the speed to wait for 1-4 megs to download a page. (think I am kidding? try going for some pages on a normal mobile).

    If you do not believe in it, you should take a guess from google: every mobile page from search is mobil-googleized. Meaning that unecessary parts of your page get eliminated, collapsed and more.

    After a short time people learn “go direct to page, slow loading. go through google: quick loading and I get there fast to the point on the page where I thought I’d find it”.

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