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I recently read this article Google: Bad User Experience For Mobile Users May Lead To Ranking Issues where an example of responsive / mobile optimized web site is shown side by side with its desktop version and continue to wonder the following:

do people really want mobile versions of websites which are completely different from their desktop counterpart?

See the example below, the mobile main page has practically no text content and seems more of an app than a website, do users really want that? I usually ignore mobile versions of websites when I can, if they ask me to install the mobile version on the phone I reject and like to zoom and pinch on the desktop version from the increasingly bigger screens and screen resolutions of smartphones.

Is it me only?

To me mobile optimized web sites should simply be about making menus accessible, input boxes accessible, parts of the website clickable etc etc. not about creating dumbed down versions (and completely different ones) from desktop versions.

Even stacking vertically content and changing its order just to fit a smaller screen is a little puzzling to me, that's not consistent for me and using desktop and mobile is basically using two different versions of the website.

The idea, by the way, of proposing an app when a user clicks a page from a smartphone to use instead of browsing with his browser seems again odd to me. If I want an app instead of browsing I go to the app store but if I'm good navigating with the browser why nag me continusouly (http://vanillaforums.org/discussions was a good example but they apparently changed this, if anyone has an example of this)

mobile version of site

desktop version of website

  • I don't see it as a 'dumbed down' version of the website, because this should not necessarily be the goal of designing to cater for different devices and user environments. I think in the context of mobile devices and perhaps people viewing the content on the go, some consideration needs to be given to a different interaction and content strategy that will suit these types of user behaviours – Michael Lai Oct 13 '14 at 20:43
  • I would consider mobile sites "distilled" versions of their larger siblings. Responsive, sure, but more focused on what the users' goals are. "Dumbed down" implies fewer core features, which might alienate users who need those features. – Nathan Rabe Feb 5 '15 at 21:08
  • What gets me is that desktop experiences are being ignored. It's common to see mobile-only design across the board, so on desktop you end up with a skeletal, empty design that somehow has the opposite of a positive, productive experience. – MarsAndBack Mar 6 '18 at 13:12
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IMO, a responsive website hides no content and adds no content no matter what. It simply rearranges the content to fit on a screen better. If a webpage has location capability, why use it only on the mobile version? What if I'm on a laptop? When I use a website, I expect it to behave the same way no matter what I'm using it on.

  • This perspective implies that the device in use has no relevance to the user's expectations. That can lead to a lot of missed opportunities. – plainclothes Feb 5 '15 at 20:58
  • @plainclothes, The device really isn't relevant - the devices features are. Don't build a website for a device, build a website for everyone. That way, the site isn't the limiting factor. – Geo1088 Feb 7 '15 at 0:02
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    Semantics. By "device" I mean it's features and the dominant contexts of it's use. If your design just moves stuff around based on size you ignore the potential of the context and features. – plainclothes Feb 7 '15 at 0:14
  • I agree that a responsive website should rearrange the content. But I think the way to do this in smaller screens could be to "hide" some of the content (like a navigation drawer does) but still keep it reachable. I guess with "hides no content" you mean "removes no content", is this correct? – Alvaro May 5 '17 at 15:44
  • @Alvaro Yep, pretty much. – Geo1088 May 5 '17 at 19:27
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No, they don't.

In my personal life it always annoys me immensely when I search for something on my phone, have a result appear (say, a forum topic) and then click on it only to be taken to the mobile version of the main page.

In my testing experience...yes. Users familiar with full versions of programs/sites tend to disproportionately miss even small removals on the mobile version. Even if people don't normally use particular features, if they are at least somewhat aware of them and use them occasionally then their absence will be felt in a stripped down mobile version.

IMO the correct way to go for phone usability in the future, and one which nobody seems to have picked up on, is not to go for specific phone design but rather for portrait design. For obvious reasons desktop focused design is landscape however phones are best for portrait optimised stuff (though yes, due to landscape focused design most people will use the web in landscape mode on their phone).

A good website design is one which works with both a big landscape desktop monitor and a little portrait android screen, without needing to have two completely separate versions of the website to do so. This is probably a big part of why drop down menus (of the click the Chinese number 3 to open the folder variety) are increasingly popular.

So...given I can't see a final question, off the top of my head two key rules of phone usability:

1: Let people easily switch to the full version if they want. If they feel they can struggle through it then let them try. 2: Keep consistency in links. Even if you're redirecting someone to a mobile version of a page it should still be that page you take them to.

  • "drop down menus (of the click the Chinese number 3 to open the folder variety)".. what do you mean? – user9948 Jan 23 '15 at 10:32
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    Chinese number 3 = 三. Hamburger menus is the proper name which escaped me at the time. – the other one Jan 23 '15 at 12:54
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responsive design isnt so much about rendering out different elements so they fit on a screen. responsive is about providing content and data for a user's behaviour on a platform

do people really want mobile versions of websites which are completely different from their desktop counterpart?

they want an experience that reflects their behaviour on that platform. So with https://www.hoteltonight.com/ the service offered up by mobile is substantially different from a hotel.com desktop website because the developers cleverly realised that they could use temporal and location information to provide a very direct experience "show me hotel rooms near me now" that has little in common with the competitors desktop version "show me a bunch of hotel rooms from all over the place once I fill in a load of form data"

but it depends on what kind of site; newspaper websites will probably contain most of the same information but render it differently for the device.

so in answer to your question, 'sometimes'

  • You showed an example of website which might need some serious thought on usability for smartphones because of its interaction with the user, but most sites are view and navigate only.. in those cases I prefer a website rendered similarly on desktop and smartphone. – user9948 Oct 14 '14 at 14:15
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    my answer still stands, 'sometimes' – colmcq Oct 14 '14 at 14:49
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Responsive = alter for context

A proper responsive design (one that has endured a rigorous UX process) manipulates page content based on a user's anticipated context. That's difficult to evaluate because you can no longer just do device detection (too many!) so you lean on viewport as an indicator. But you can tell a lot from that number.

Whether you remove content/features, add them, or just scale/position things differently is determined by your UX findings. In many cases, you'll discover a lot of extras in the full view that aren't necessary on smaller screens (at least not persistently exposed).

In the wild, you'll find many sites that aren't rigorous about doing it right. They go crazy and strip things down to a useless minimum. No one but the page performance nuts want that.

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