Luke Wroblewski, in his book "Mobile First" second chapter "Constraints", talks about how users look for the mobile site to do everything that the desktop version does. It reminds me of my colleague who says he always disables mobile sites because he hates them. He believes they are all basically sub-par to the full versions and I would dare to say that is often true.

It made me think, what is the percentage of people who disable the mobile site or choose to by-pass it to see the full version?

The reason this is important is because I have been designing several mobile sites or 480/320 sized versions for a responsive design setup. But how many people are ignoring that and opting in for the full version? How do I account for people with that behavior?

And for those who do, why do they do it? Maybe it is due to not finding what they are looking for and thinking the feature/item is unavailable on the mobile version. It could also be because they are used to the full version due to previous use and prefer to use something familiar that will more quickly help them reach their goal. There are probably more reasons...

Does anyone have experience with research/statistics on these questions or articles that try to provide a framework of thinking for why people by-pass the mobile site?

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    From a programming perspective, the biggest reason to serve a mobile site, as opposed to a responsive one, is to REMOVE content. So if there is a mobile site, chances are, it's missing stuff (not the case for webapps). Sure they are generally ugly, but if they work, people aren't going to go out of their way to disable them. It's when they are broken/buggy/missing content that people are going to say screw it. Most phones can deal with desktop sites fine these days anyway.
    – Will
    Commented Jul 23, 2012 at 17:56
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    IMO a mobile site should always make the content more likely to be required on-the-go easier to get to. If we all did this people wouldn't want to disable mobile sites at all!
    – TJH
    Commented Jul 24, 2012 at 10:39
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    Yes, but I was hoping to hear more from people who have noted bounce rated and found out reasons why those bounces to the full site happened. Commented Jul 25, 2012 at 3:45
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    Could you reword this question? I think you're really asking, "Why do mobile users give up on the mobile site and switch back to the full site instead?" which is an interesting and more answerable question. Commented Jul 25, 2012 at 14:18

1 Answer 1


There are three main reasons I think:

  1. As you say, the mobile site is functionally restricted 90%- 95% of the time. Usually UX designers think that what's the "most important" on the site for them is also the most important for the users, without sufficient amount of user research to support that claim.
  2. They can also switch off because of familiarity: they know how to use the desktop site, and they find content with spatial thinking
  3. The "mobile" isn't a mobile. I, as an iPad user since 2010 would like to state, that I bought the iPad as a desktop browser with touchscreen, and I ask every single UX designer on the world NOT to design a tablet-optimized version of ANY website, but make sure the desktop version doesn't rely on mouse hovers instead, nor it requires 4 gigs of RAM to run.

My favourite is when I cannot switch back to desktop version from a tablet-optimiized (read: much more reduced in functionality, and somehow much more javascript-heavy, because they didn't like the scrolling) version. I'd set a bounty to kill for that, albeit I know the guy who did it...

(Second most favourite is when a website thinks erronously that I use an iPhone, and presents me with HUGE controls)

Also, it's surprising how "real" users are not interested in fanciness, compared to UX designers. Unfortunately, some of them will unleash the full potential of their creativity for the mobile site, without thinking in user goals, and without spending time, money and effort on user research - hence, unnavigatable, but cool-looking mobile sites.

About how many people will do it with your website:

  1. it depends how well they know the desktop version (if they've never met the desktop version, they don't have spatial memory about it; also it depends on your demographics and main context of use (eg. a restaurant finder may be more used from mobile)
  2. it depends, how well you designed the mobile experience, how easy it is to navigate
  3. We can't tell: you have to measure it by counting how many of the visitors are from mobile on the desktop site after there was an automatic redirection. GAnalytics or other tools could help you with that.
  4. Make sure you do user research with a beta beforehand.
  • Re your tablet argument: Developer should not send the user to the mobile site based on the user agent of the client (e.g. "oh, iOS/Android device -> mobile"), but on the capabilities of the browser ("ah, your display size ist 480*320 -> the mobile version may be better").
    – ercpe
    Commented Jul 28, 2012 at 10:25
  • You don't have to tell this to me, I'm much more aware of development issues and cause and effect: tell this to those 80% of sites-with-mobile-version who don't know this... Also, what if the user is from an iframe / resized window? Rule should be: 1) desktop browser always desktop 2) mobile browser with small screen mobile 3) mobile browser with large screen desktop 4) NO tablet
    – Aadaam
    Commented Jul 28, 2012 at 10:29
  • @Aadaam, Thanks for a great answer with some good thoughts. I'm not sure about 3) in your comment above. My manager just got the Commented Jul 30, 2012 at 20:37
  • @JeroenEijkhof: just got the what? You create a website, then publish its URL to some people (beta) or all over the world (public). WHen they come to your site, you use different kind of measurement tools (Site Catalyst, Google Analytics) to know what do they do. Set up a kind of measurement which measures, how many people did came to the desktop site from the mobile site (actually, GAnalytics might do this for you by default), compared to how many people stayed there. If possible, ask them personally why did they switch in this concrete case.
    – Aadaam
    Commented Jul 30, 2012 at 21:58
  • oops - @Aadaam, Thanks for a great answer with some good thoughts. I'm not sure about 3) in your comment above. My manager just got the Google Nexus 7, it's a 1280x800 screen but the dpi is so high that sites that have that width look really small on his screen. Commented Jul 31, 2012 at 17:56

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