People are increasingly using the internet on mobile devices and companies need to provide an equal user experience for visitors accessing their online information in different ways.
However, a recent Gomez/dotMobi report says that mobile web performance is getting worse (in the airline, banking and search industries at least): there’s an increasing gap between ‘traditional’ and mobile websites, with the former getting faster and the latter getting slower.
Are two websites better than one?
Many organisations (such as Vodafone) are producing two websites: a ‘traditional’ one for PCs and another version for mobile browsers. This is generating a lot of discussion in the industry (including among accessibility professionals) regarding the need for – and wisdom of – separate websites.
The arguments are wide ranging, from making the same content available to everyone (without forcing people with different browsers to use a different version of a website) to providing a good user experience across all devices.
It also raises issues of doubling maintenance efforts (and therefore costs) as well as ensuring content is consistent and up to date across both sites.
Mobile performance criteria
The Gomez/dotMobi study looked at the mobile web experiences provided by leading companies in the three sectors, across major wireless networks. It measured:
- availability – making sure customers get the information they need, when they need it
- response time – how quickly visitors can access content and perform tasks
- consistency – consistent user experiences, no matter where they are
- discoverability – how easily customers can find a mobile site from various URLs
- readiness – making sure the mobile website renders as intended on popular devices
American Airlines, Bank of America and Amazon ranked highest among the selected companies in their respective sectors (Google wasn’t included because its mobile web application “did not meet the technical requirements for benchmark participation”).
What are the roots of the problem?
Gomez says that despite consumers’ high expectations for mobile web experiences, quality experiences continue to be a challenge for many businesses. The company says that this should be a concern for both brand managers and technical teams.
I’d be interested to know what the study team thought were the main causes of these performance issues: bloated code, poor navigation and content that’s not fit for purpose, for example? Of course, this is common to all types of websites; not just mobile ones.
The majority of these issues could begin to be addressed by following standards and accessibility guidelines. Sites that do often perform better, make maintenance simpler and decrease related costs. In addition, effective use of CSS can also avoid the need for separate websites for different devices.
I’d be curious to know how some of the other corporate sectors perform, those that aren’t as consumer facing as the three chosen for this study. If anybody’s aware of any reports, let us know.
- VNUnet.com: Designing websites for mobile users (May 2009)
- ZDNet.co.uk: Forget the mobile web: One site should work for all (Mar 2009)
- AccessifyForum.com: Mobile-friendly websites and accessibility (discussion thread) (Feb 2009)
- Dev.Opera: How to serve the right content to mobile browsers (Nov 2007)
This post also appeared on Corporate Eye, where I write articles on whole-site issues for corporate websites.