Mobile Friendly Sites Are Often Anything But

Web sites tend to get redesigned regularly.  Just like a store that needs updating every now and then, the electronic face of any store, news site, or otherwise needs to be kept up to date.

The latest trend has been to redesign sites around the fact that more mobile users are using them, so they are designed to be ‘mobile friendly’.

Personally, I’m starting to hate this.

And where I hate it the most?  Reading these sites on my mobile device.

Two examples come to mind where the latest site redesigns have practically killed the reading experience for me.

Yahoo Sports

I used to be a die hard Yahoo user.  Back in the day, I used My Yahoo as my default page.  I used Yahoo Mail for all personal email.  I used Yahoo Search, Yahoo News, Yahoo Sports, their photo sharing and storage service, heck I even used Yahoo Personals in the early 2000’s.  For most of the items above, I migrated to other services (except Personals, which I thankfully no longer need), but Yahoo Sports was one of the few things I kept strictly Yahoo.  They had the best sports site out there.  I liked the content.  I liked the layout.  I liked the writers.

Then toward the end of last year, they made it ‘mobile friendly’ and suddenly it started to suck.  It’s got a ton more ads, it seems like they started producing less original content and syndicating other content, and since the layout of the desktop was changed to sync with the new ‘mobile’ site, the problems were on both versions.

Since the change, the front page has far less relevant content than it used to.  The day after the Super Bowl, exactly one of the first fifteen ‘top stories’ even mentioned the Super Bowl.  At least four stories, however, were actually ads.  Another five or six were syndicated.

NBC News

I’ve always liked the NBC News website layout.  It was broken into categories and you could even customize your page with the categories you wanted.  During lunch, I’d read this site and would typically find at least 10-15 articles to read in categories ranging from Top Stories, Sports, Entertainment, Health, Travel, and Business.

Last month they rolled out a new ‘mobile friendly’ site, and I would say that I now read maybe two articles a day.

Has the content been cut?  I’m not sure.  I’m guessing that it hasn’t been cut by 80% but they made everything ‘visual’ which leads to confusion and clutter.  An organized list may not have been the most ‘mobile friendly’ thing, but it was easy to skim and click into things that I wanted to see.  Now, it’s laid out with pictures hapharzadly all over the place, which are the links.

And, the mobile site, it’s honestly awful.  It loads in such a way that the links to NBC News content load, so you start getting ready to click, but by the time your finger gets to your screen, the page layout changes, because now the ads are loading.

So, when I click, half the time I end up in another link because the content keeps shifting.  I guess I could wait another 10-15 seconds for the page to fully load, but how in anybody’s imagination is that supposed to be ‘mobile friendly’?

Why Are They Doing It?

This is just my hunch and personal observation, but think both of the redesigns were done with two changes in mind:

  • Less content – I believe that both Yahoo and NBC are producing less content than mb-201403phonebefore.  This would be an effort to reduce costs
  • More ads – It’s apparent that both have increased their ad presence as a result of their redesigns.  Unfortunately, when you design your site around ad placement, it makes for a terrible site.  It should be the other way around.

I’m guessing that more and more sites will make the transition to ‘mobile friendly’ sites, but I think this is not going to be good.  I think ‘mobile friendly’ will end up being another way of saying ‘We’re giving you less content and more ads’.  Before you think that backlash or reduced page views will doom this strategy, I have to point out that food companies do this all the time and have been getting away with it.  More ofen than not, a ‘Great New Look’ for your favorite potato chip or carton of orange juice means that you’re getting less product in a fancy new package.  Yet it continues to happen, and I fear that the ‘mobile friendly’ equivalent is here to stay.

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15 thoughts on “Mobile Friendly Sites Are Often Anything But

  1. I’m with you…I hate the mobile versions of websites. I know where I want to go with a website and what I am looking. With the mobile versions, it’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Now, the first thing I do is scroll to the bottom of the page and change it to desktop version. Many sites now offer this solution to us mobile version haters!

  2. When NBC news launched their new design last month, I absolutely hated it. Now, I’m sort of getting used to it, but you’re right, it looks like less content and more ads. However, I’ve started using the menu link in the upper left hand corner and it gives you all the news sections. So maybe the additional content is hidden in there. I’ve found a few additional stories that weren’t loaded on the home page. As for mobile-friendly, I haven’t really used these sites on my phone so I don’t know if they are better or not.

  3. I see it that way too, in general for most sites. I like the general/standard layout of sites better most of the time, and find that using a smartphone makes it easy to navigate. The mobile version, as a distinct and separate version, isn’t really necessary for the end user in many situations.

  4. I don’t like the mobile versions of many sites. I always try to find the link on the page that says “Desktop version” and click to that. With that being said, people are consuming more content on mobile devices. That fact was one of the reasons I chose the theme I did for my site, because it had built in mobile responsiveness so my content would appear properly on a mobile device.

  5. Yeah, I totally agree. Ever since facebook managed to successfully monetize mobile, this has clearly become a goal of many other sites you are trying to add more apps in their mobile versions, but in some cases, this makes it almost impossible to use.

  6. The thing I hate MOST about mobile sites is the way they make the content different. There’s been times where I see something on the “full” website and think that I’ll read it later. Then, when I’m standing in line or waiting somewhere else I’ll pull up the site on my phone and simply cannot find what I was looking for. Blech.

  7. My thoughts exactly. It seems some of these mobile sites are even tougher to navigate at times. Any “innovation” a company does is usually to try to get more money at the expense of something else.

  8. Mobile is where it is at these days. I still like a desktop, but most of my high-speed response emails come from my phone. And of course, all of the texts.

    I make or save a lot of money on my phone.

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