If an iPhone user has trouble using a website, does that mean the UI is intrinsically bad?

Examples of trouble:

Here are some examples of where a website can give users trouble when viewed on an iPhone:

  • Scrolling

The iPhone has no problem scrolling the main document. But it has trouble scrolling when you put scrollbars on a modal box. There's no indication that the box is even scrollable. Many people I've talked to don't even know you can scroll a modal box with two fingers. Even then, it's really fidgety. A real life example is an admin site that a coworker made. He made all the main navigation links open in modal windows. Even on a desktop computer, i found it annoying to scroll the windows to reveal all of the content.

  • Hover states

You cant hover over an element on the iphone because it's a touch based device. Sometimes you don't know what's clickable and not because some designers rely on the hover state to show that it's clickable. An example is SmashingMagazine.com. You don't know that the article titles lead you into the article because they're not blue or underlined. But on a computer, it does have a blue background when you hover over the title.

  • Drag and drop

Im not sure ive ever seen drag and drop implemented on a website for iphone. Perhaps its not even possible. Drag and drop is a novel idea. It works well in some cases like reordering of items. I find that it's cumbersome in nearly all other cases. Take Google Docs for example. You can drag and drop files from your hard drive into the site. But this requires you to shrink your website to make room for the folder that has your files. This juggling of windows is a little hard for some people.

  • 2
    Scrolling in modal dialogs is bad in any environment - not just mobile devices. There have been several studies that have shown that users don't really understand it if the scrollbar is anywhere but on the far right of the browser window. Mar 1, 2011 at 21:37
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    Could you update this so you aren't being so device-specific? Just saying mobile devices doesn't really change the intent of the question, but it is definitely more universal. Mar 1, 2011 at 21:39
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    I have no experience with other cell phones, so i cannot make such a general claim.
    – JoJo
    Mar 1, 2011 at 22:40
  • @Jojo Are you making a claim or asking a question? Mar 1, 2011 at 23:13
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    if an iPhone user has trouble using a website, then the UI is intrinsically bad [for iPhone users]
    – DA01
    Mar 3, 2011 at 20:21

4 Answers 4


I don't think that you can make an across the board statement like that, without any context, but if your website is intended for general public consumption, then you should make every effort to accommodate both mobile and desktop browsing (and think about Android, too). That doesn't mean one site that is suited for all devices, it most likely means a CSS or other type solution that presents different UIs to different devices.

Really, you should watch browser and device resolution trends to help get a better understanding of where things are going.


if iPhone user has trouble using a website than its a bad UI only for iPhone , you can not generalize anything further than that.

Hover State is limitation due to way touch based interface work..

so a good UI designed for Desktop browser is not good enough for touch based devices ( e.g. iPhone , android , wp7 ) but that does not make that UI bad for all the devices...

e.g. yahoo news websites loads brief news story and a thumbnail pick when you hover over a news item , this is useful for users who wants to see bit more about news before clicking on the news story but that is not possible on touch based devices..

Drag and Drop for file is not possible on iPhone due to technical limitation as you can not shrink ( minimize ) screen and drop the files on home screen on iPhone ( as per my knowledge you can not save files from browser on iPhone as you can do it on Desktop )

Excluding that feature when google docs is accessed via iPhone's safari browser is actually called graceful degradation of feature set due to nature of the device on which website is viewed.

so again user might loose some features but that is due to limitation of what the devices can handle UI wise.

< Rant > iPhone is not the only device people use it do various things. we have 4 billion + ip4 addresses and we have almost used that quota and Apple just shipped their 100 millionth iPhone so there are many more devices through which people are connected to Internet and interact with websites..programs ( in layman's terms - apps )

so if a UI is bad for iPhone ( one's subjective opinion ) it might be bad for that tiny portion of the users using iPhone and iDevices but that does not necessarily mean bad UI for all devices. < / Rant >


I do believe you've discovered why there are generally two forward-facing interfaces for any serious web project... the standard interface, and the stripped-down mobile interface.

It is a horrendous mistake in my opinion to base general usability off of such a single, limited device, unless your application is expressly for use with that device, and that device only.


I believe that the answer is no. Well yes it is a bad design for your mobile device but...

  1. there are ways to tell the mobile device that there is a special version of the site especially for mobiles.
  2. If I have a lot of space on a 50'' display I'd like to use them e.g: look at 50 thumbnail at the same time and even have a larger version of the selected picture + its details somewhere on the same screen. There is no way you can make the same happen in a mobile.

Like everything in life each have pros and cons and you should take advantage of each pros.

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