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.
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.
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 before. 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.