Should I permanently remove some content from a mobile version of a site (meaning it can't be accessed in any way from the mobile version) or should the content be only hidden (it's not shown but there is a button display it)?

Take StackOverflow - when you access the mobile profile page some links such as privileges are hidden and can't be accessed in any way. This de-facto means that some content was removed, as I expected to be able to access the privileges page from my profile which is not true for the mobile version.

  • 3
    Each project would be different, but I would always ask: if the content isn't important enough to show to mobile users, why do you need it at all?
    – JonW
    Feb 17, 2014 at 14:14
  • Because a user may be used to accessing it from a desktop site but can't find it on mobile = confusion. But I agree that if something gets removed in the mobile version then a removal from the desktop page should also be considered. Feb 17, 2014 at 14:17

5 Answers 5


The better question to ask is...

What is the impact if I don't display this content on mobile?

Some quick stats from December 2013 concerning mobile:

  • Amazon: More than half of customers shopped using a mobile device during the 2013 holiday season.
  • ESPN: 47.4 million people used mobile properties in September 2013, the first month ever in which more unique people visited ESPN mobile than ESPN.com.
  • Facebook: 101 million US daily mobile users make up 78% of its 128 million daily US users.
  • Yelp: As of September 2013, 60% of all searches came from mobile.
  • Twitter: 60% of users are on mobile.
  • Weather Channel: registered 1.1 billion online page views in October 2011 and 1.3 billion page views on mobile devices.

(Source: Luke Wroblewski)

People want content wherever they go. If your content isn't easily accessible via mobile, chances are it's not your content that's the problem: it's way you're delivering it.

You can't make the assumption that mobile users are "people on the go." In recent Breaking Development Conference talk given by Luke Wroblewski, he shared some further statistics:

  • 86% of US phones are used with a TV
  • 90% of users use multiple screens at the same time.

(Source: "It's A Read/Write (Mobile) Web" (PDF), presented by Luke Wroblewski. Stats taken from pg. 64)

People use their devices all the time. Are there instances where they need a phone number right away? Yeah, sure. But the overwhelming majority of statistics show that people use their mobile devices for entertainment purposes and to kill time.

Getting to Stack Overflow and Stack Exchange, as an employee here I should state first that this is all my personal opinion. Other people have different opinions here. That's fine. In my opinion though anything that we show on the "desktop" version should be available on "mobile." Just because the way I engage with a website changes doesn't mean that level of my engagement will. I still want access to information. I still want access to tools. A user shouldn't lose access to content because their context changes. We need to find a way to deliver content better. Forms can always be simplified. Content can always be prioritized. Layouts can be modified to best deliver content.

  • Does Stack Exchange follow your opinion and retains all content on mobile and desktop? Or are there some parts of the desktop site that are hidden on mobile? Feb 18, 2014 at 9:17
  • All recognize the importance of mobile. We vary in the emphasis we place on it. Items that are hidden on the mobile site you can find by selecting "full site" or "desktop site" in the footer. Sometimes items are flagged because they're deemed not important enough to be reworked at the time.
    – Hynes
    Feb 18, 2014 at 11:42
  • 1
    As a mod I never use the mobile version of Stack Exchange sites. I can't get to the mod tools from there, chat is a PITA too. I've not tried the Android or iOS app versions yet. However (in my opinion) as the site is primarily text questions and answers (i.e. 'information') I don't see why it needs to be separate mobile site, apps and 'full' site. Just one responsive site would cover all bases in my opinion. Oh well.
    – JonW
    Feb 18, 2014 at 11:50
  • Well as a new user I use mobile to check for responses and rep gain (it's amazing how addictive those worthless virtual things are). But I tried accessing the privileges list from my profile page on mobile and simply couldn't find the link. I left fairly disappointed - sure it's not an important feature but it made me realize that the mobile version is watered down. Feb 18, 2014 at 14:55

It depends - on the website, technical constraints and mobile usage context:

  • Very often mobile usage context is completely different than while on desktop. For example, if it is a website of an insurance company, the desktop version may be mostly focused on promoting their services, and on mobile most important may be the phone number you can call to register car accident.

  • In some cases, porting full functionality of the desktop website to mobile may be impossible having in mind the device and connection technological limitations, and in fact it may defer the experience rather than improve it.

  • Some tools are too big to port to mobile, because of the wide span of features that are not usable on small touch screen.

Generalizing is not a good idea here - you simply cannot set a golden rule about it. Instead, you should:

  • think how users will interact with the system,
  • based on this prioritize sections/features for desktop and mobile users,
  • create usage scenarios,
  • test the implementation of your assumptions,
  • improve it in the future based on collected statistics and users feedback.

During user tests I have asked a lot of users about their context and needs, while entering websites using different devices. It has led to following:

On smartphone users are often busy, on their way to your place, shop or whatever. In that situation they need address and opening hours.

Tablet is mostly used at home sitting in the cough, often in front of the TV, or casual social events with friends. Good content in this situation is news, special offer and share on social media.

When entering a website using a computer, the users are more concentrated and focused. In this situation they will be looking for specific product details and other in-depth information.

See www.instantUX.com

  • Thank you, that's a simple and yet logical answer that probably took quite some time to find out:) Feb 17, 2014 at 23:37
  • But what about specifically removing content. Imagine there is a link to my profile page on the desktop and tablet home page but the link is not on the mobile version anywhere (not even on a menu that can be displayed by a small button, not even in the footer). Will the user keep searching for a login link on the mobile site if he used it before on the desktop or tablet version? Feb 17, 2014 at 23:40
  • It may still be generally true that "on smartphone users are often busy," but increasingly mobile device does not mean mobile user. People with their smartphones are as likely to be lounging on the couch at home.
    – in_flight
    Feb 18, 2014 at 3:37

Dominik had great points. I believe in some cases where it's a website displaying information you try and have key points for certain information and then expand on them with supporting copy, text, and images. I recently did a site where I hid extra copy and images on mobile that wasn't one of the main points we wanted users to see.

You can see the difference here: http://babaziki.com. Be sure to refresh when you scale down to mobile size.

I would say that if you can elegantly display the information in a way that benefits the user and doesn't overload them, it's worth having. If it just seems repetitive and messy, take it out. If features can't be fully functional at a mobile size, disable them for mobile.

  • Thanks for the opinion, I really appreciate it. Just one design flaw I noticed on your site - the numbering 1 2 3 4 is problematic, as I started reading the list horizontally (1->3->2->4) and got confused for a second. There's an interesting article about multi-columns here, maybe it could provide some new information: baymard.com/blog/avoid-multi-column-forms Feb 17, 2014 at 15:27
  • Thank you! I agree with you but unfortunately the print menu was done this way before I got on board and the client advised to go with it on the website.
    – joshmlewis
    Feb 17, 2014 at 19:01

If it's 'OK' to hide the content on mobile, it's probably not content that you need to keep on the full site, either.

That said, it all depends on what content we're talking about.

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