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Ask Slashdot: Why Do Mobile Versions of Websites Suck? 382

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the second-system dept.
First time accepted submitter Kelbear writes "As user traffic over mobile devices grows in leaps and bounds, it's surprising to me as a layman that so many companies still have crippled and broken mobile pages in late 2013. There must be justifiable reasons for this, so: Fellow Slashdotters, can you please share the obstacles you've seen in your own companies that have delayed or defeated efforts to develop competent mobile sites? Are the issues in obtaining or maintaining compatibility driven by platform owners like Apple and Google?"
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Ask Slashdot: Why Do Mobile Versions of Websites Suck?

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  • case in point (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fermion (181285) on Monday December 23, 2013 @09:15PM (#45771371) Homepage Journal

    and no way to turn it off.

    Mobile sites just make too many assumptions, with no way to configure. Mostly those assumptions have to with advertisements.

  • budget (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cultiv8 (1660093) on Monday December 23, 2013 @09:17PM (#45771393) Homepage
    And technical incompetence.
  • by csumpi (2258986) on Monday December 23, 2013 @09:19PM (#45771411)
    Bullshit. Apps suck even more. Get a device with a big enough screen, and use the desktop version of the internet.
  • by VortexCortex (1117377) <VortexCortex.project-retrograde@com> on Monday December 23, 2013 @09:29PM (#45771507)

    Mobile PC? What's that? A notebook, right? Or one of those ones with detachable keyboards? Maybe you mean the ones with blutooth keyboard sold separately and the smaller (or, egad!, tiny) screens?

    Yeah, the reason the mobile site sucks is because there is no such thing as a mobile personal computer. It's just a PC with a very capital P. If your hardware sucks, well, sorry man. Get with the times. I don't expect to play Gears of War on my 16 bit 80386 DOS machine.

    There's this thing called Moore's Law. You see, and you're what we call an "Early Adopter". Early adopters have shitty times -- You decided to pay good money for a shitty experience. So, they keep selling you the shitty experience and you complain that you keep buying it. Sorry pal, no sympathy. By the time I re-engineer my stuff to work on "low powered" pieces of crap, they'll have caught up with my 6 year old dual core laptop which runs the web just fine (oops, too late, they already did).

    The folks who didn't grok this made some shitty website designs because they were too dumb not to. When they did so their primary use case was still bigger screen devices with more power, so they didn't give it their best shot. Fuckers like the fools doing the Slashdot redesign are trying to make "One Design To Rule Them All" -- Instead of just laying down the law: You've got shitty hardware, your shit will be slow. And letting market forces sort it out.

  • by caseih (160668) on Monday December 23, 2013 @09:35PM (#45771545)

    Maybe a year or two ago, Slashdot on mobile was great. It looked and functioned relatively similarly to the full site, but was formatted for narrow phone screens. It worked great. You could read comments, configure the comments, post comments, and moderate. It was, in my opinion, a perfect blend of the functionality of the full site with a mobile-optimized site. Sadly, Dice threw that all out and now we have the horrid mobile slashdot site. Ironically the traditional desktop site is more usable on the mobile screen than the mobile site. The new slashdot beta, on the other hand, well it just proves Dice doesn't really understand what this site it bought actually is.

    Kudos to the submitter for managing to submit a story that really is, "why does slashot mobile suck?" but in a form that the story moderators accepted.

    Once the beta desktop site goes live, I expect to see a story, "Why do site redesigns suck?" Sadly participating in that conversation will be much more difficult as even figuring out how to read comments in a sane way seems to be impossible with the new beta, let alone posting!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 23, 2013 @09:39PM (#45771573)

    The mobile version of Slashdot sucks hard.


    The more you try and make it "responsive", the less it works.

    This is a motherfucking website []. It renders in every browser. It doesn't require Javascript, Java, Flash, AIR, or HTML5. It doesn't load 100kB of jQuery. In fact, the entire website takes up less space than most avatars do.

    It. just. works.

    Slashdot: Please abort the failed beta. Give the guy his money and let him go. Give him a promotion, he's obviously learned a lot about the hot new thing that'll look good on his resume next time. But please, just please, don't put that beta into production. It doesn't even have a 'view all comments' option. It's less functional than the current AJAX failure of D2, which itself was far less functional than the classic/D1 version. Please. Just. Stop.

  • by Karmashock (2415832) on Monday December 23, 2013 @09:55PM (#45771683)

    Mobile sites should be the same site just with less/no flash and tighter layout. Beyond that, the site should be identical.

    What is annoying about mobile sites is that frequently they're totally different and since they're second string productions they tend to be missing stuff.

  • by intermelt (196274) on Monday December 23, 2013 @10:13PM (#45771833) Homepage

    Modern phones don't really need a mobile version of a site. As a user I usually find myself forcing the "desktop" version of the site when I can. As a web developer I usually tell people not to waste their money on a mobile version. Most mobile sites suck because someone decided they needed a mobile version either for cool factor or to please a boss. They didn't have a good budget and cut corners on every aspect. There are use cases where a website should be done in a mobile format and can be useful when the budget is available.

    Lets start with good mobile sites. Those that should be mobile. These are sites that someone might access while actually on the go or need to do something quick. Think directions or ordering food. Most people don't want to shop Target from their phone. However a lot of people want to get directions to the closest Target. A good mobile site would prioritize the directions/location aspect. That works for retail and your standard service businesses. The other type is restaurants that deliver. When you are sitting in front of your TV and want to order a pizza, you obviously are in lazy mode. A restaurant mobile website can make the ordering process simple and quick. These are examples of use cases where mobile sites work and and should be used.

    I think most mobile sites fall in the category of "we need a mobile site" This is where there is no budget and the client is offered a shitty mobile site so a developer can make a quick buck with buzz words. These sites tend to be created with generators or a general theme on a Wordpress site. Nothing special and usually makes the experience worse.

    The last category is what you asked about. A good mobile friendly website. These are sites that don't fall into the restaurant/location (however I consider those ones that don't suck) category because they need more than just directions or ordering pizza. These types of sites cost a lot to develop. Developing a true user friendly mobile site is not easy. Think about developing a site for IE7, IE8, IE9, Safari, FF, and Chrome. Fairly standard a year or so ago. It took time. Now multiply that by 10. Ok so now you know the time involved to develop and test a good mobile site. However you only have a Galaxy S4 to test on. So now you need to go purchase multiple iPhones, multiple Android phones, a few iPads and maybe a few Android tablets. You can now start debugging on all these devices. Good luck! Oh and then ask your customers if they care. The ROI is not there.

    This is why mobile sites suck. No one wants to invest the money to do it right. Even those that do invest the money either focus on a single platform or can't keep up with the ever changing community of mobile devices.

    Taking some of the points from above you realize that you should just have a normal site and let people deal with zooming (pinching) in and out to click on links. Or maybe go for an app if you have something specialized.


  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Monday December 23, 2013 @10:29PM (#45771941)

    "Get a device with a big enough screen, and use the desktop version of the internet."

    I would not have worded it the same way you did, but I agree.

    The reason mobile versions of web sites suck, is because mobile devices suck.

    They're okay for what they are. But there are reasons why books and newspapers (for hundreds-of-years-old classic examples) aren't printed on 2.5" x 4" paper. And that reason is: it is just plain not enough room to convey information well via the printed word. You can still fit it in if you make the print tiny, but then it's unreadable by half the population.

    Period. End of story. Granted, some sites could do better, but you aren't going to change the basic, underlying problem.

    Get a device with a big enough screen, and the internet isn't painful anymore. It's that simple.

  • by pspahn (1175617) on Monday December 23, 2013 @10:32PM (#45771963)

    Apple has stated that site owners should serve a specific version for iPad users. I can't find their FAQ that discusses this, but I remember it from about a year ago.

    Yes, an iPad specific theme provides a better experience for iPad users; however, this simply adds additional fragmentation to the web developer's workflow and is precisely the reason the movement has been so strong in the last few years to get away from browser/platform specific "workarounds".

    We (web developers) have had to deal with IE for so long that when something new comes along that forces us into the same box we've been clawing our way out of, well, it's not surprising that we tell our bosses not to do it.

    Consider that even as we near 2014, most web sites are not responsive. The whole responsive movement relies on building a site's theme into about three flavors (suit to taste); desktop, smaller screens (small laptops, etc) and mobile. The gray area between "small screen" and mobile is quite large and iPad suffers because it is often treated as a mobile device. After all, it has a touch screen like a mobile device. It is smaller than a desktop like a mobile device. It has a battery... etc etc.

    When all is said and done, you're looking at the mobile version of a site on an iPad because the days of coding a specific version of a site for a specific device are behind us and it's a massive waste of money and resources.

  • by ApplePy (2703131) on Monday December 23, 2013 @10:54PM (#45772095)

    Believe me, people DO use smartphones to do heavy surfing.

    I don't own a "smart" phone, you insensitive clod!

    But seriously, I don't. And I don't want one, either. As someone who does actual work on a computer, I'll stick with my 3x 24" LCDs. I'll be double-damned if I'm going to sit hunched over finger swiping trying to read tiny text on a goddamn *phone*.

    It's fucking regression. These "smart" phones have screens the size computers did when I was a kid. Why would I want to go back to 1980?

    People do everything (and more) on smartphones they do on PCs.

    Try working with spreadsheets or writing code on your iPhone.

    I'm sorry, but the whole idea of using a telephone as a general purpose computing device, while technically feasible, is just dumb. It's a trend for mindless consumers, and nothing more.

  • by adolf (21054) <> on Tuesday December 24, 2013 @12:22AM (#45772643) Journal

    It's fucking regression. These "smart" phones have screens the size computers did when I was a kid. Why would I want to go back to 1980?

    You carried a battery-operated pocket computer with 24-bit color, accelerated 3D graphics, a library of books (or music or movies or whatever), voice recognition, GPS-based navigation, a multi-point capacitive touchscreen, a surprisingly good digital camera or two, and a fast always-on wireless Internet connection in 1980?

    Seriously. I do my real work with a multi-headed desktop, and I usually have one or more laptops in the trunk of the car for when I'm out and about, and I prefer to read books and magazines on paper.

    But I do use my smartphone far more often than I anticipated -- if I want to Google some curiosity while sitting on the couch, find a recipe to use something that is on special at the grocery store, or if I'm chatting with someone (in real life) and I need to forward them an email, or document something with a photograph, or take a quick note without rounding up a pen and paper: I can just do it, and be done with that task, and move on to other things.

    It even routes me around traffic congestion when driving, and gets me to the right bus/train/whatever station at the right time to get me where I'm going in an unfamiliar city.

    And a myriad of other things. Pocket computers are useful tools for all sorts of stuff that I can't do with my desktop computer because, simply, the desktop computer does not fit into my pocket.

    Do I edit spreadsheets and write code with it? No. But I could do so if I were strongly motivated to: It has an HDMI port and handles Bluetooth keyboards and mice just fine...but by the time I go through that amount of effort, I'm better off to fire up a laptop (which I will probably use with the tethering function on the pocket computer).

    Then again, I do use it to ssh into various boxen to do various simple tasks while I'm out and about. It works just fine as a pocket-sized glass teletype.

  • by ApplePy (2703131) on Tuesday December 24, 2013 @02:59AM (#45773287)

    But I do use my smartphone far more often than I anticipated -- if I want to Google some curiosity while sitting on the couch, find a recipe to use something that is on special at the grocery store, or if I'm chatting with someone (in real life) and I need to forward them an email, or document something with a photograph, or take a quick note without rounding up a pen and paper:

    That's what concerns me, and why I don't get one. I'd keep finding more and more stuff I can do with it, and then pretty soon, I'm another little glowing screen zombie bumping into people in the supermarket because I'm fucking updating my goddamn Facebook status to tell everyone I'm buying olives and free-range soda pop at Whole Foods, and then I realize -- Holy shit OMG FML -- I have just become one of those little glowy-screen-zombie fuckers I dreaded. So I post my existential crisis on Google+ and Twitter it while I Instagram out a photo of this killer deal they have on red snapper. But wait! This app tells me that red snapper is cheaper at Trader Joes by a half a buck a pound, so I dash out to the car, bumping in to only 3 other Twatterers on the way out of the store, use my GPS nav to find my way the 4 blocks west to the other store.

    Then I post on Facebook wondering how come I don't have any free time any more... and check it every 3 minutes to see who "liked" that and who didn't, and OMG! my sister in law just posted some new pictures (8,000 so far this month -- it's a newborn!) of her daughter -- so cute! So I like like like, right? Then I forget why I came to Trader Joe's, so I check my history... nope. Why did I come here? Aww, cute cat videos! Oh hell, I didn't check the NFL scores today, lemme do that real quick while I'm driving 10mph below the speed limit in the fast lane... etc etc etc.

    Anyway, yeah. Basically, I don't want to become... you or any other little touchy screeny zombie. Because you know what? I plan my shopping. I download recipes, but I don't need them *at the store*. If I need to Google something, I get my ass off the couch and walk to my office. Same goes for forwarding emails. There is absolutely nothing internet-ish that is so fucking important that it can't wait til I get to my computer. There is nowhere, and no wait, so awfully boring that I can't amuse myself thinking, knitting, or reading a book.

    Most of all, I live. Life is just fine without constant electronic distraction.

    Sure, my friends tell me, "get a smart phone! You'll love it!" I'd probably love cocaine, too, which is why I don't try it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 24, 2013 @03:04AM (#45773311)

    If you go to from a PC, you get redirected to If you visit from an iPad, you get redirected to HINT: SOME OF US USE PRIVATE BROWSING. DON'T FUCKING REDIRECT ME. I TYPED IT THAT WAY ON PURPOSE. Stop screwing with looking at the user agent and let me go where I goddamn asked to go, instead of requiring me to click a "Mobile Version" or "Desktop Version" link EVERY MOTHERFUCKING TIME.

The unfacts, did we have them, are too imprecisely few to warrant our certitude.