Feb 17 2010

The Mobile Web Still Sucks

As everyone expected, browsing the web on our mobile devices has become steadily more prominent. The browsers available on our phones have become more robust and feel more like desktop browsers, but you know something? They’re not.

Ooh, that’s too rich for my browser

I increasingly find myself using the Opera browser on my HTC Fuze to get stuff done or check things out. Even doing things other than browsing the web will get me there eventually by clicking a link in email or a Twitter update. (That’s also why I think that the Xbox should have a browser, but that’s another story.) Problem is (I think), more and more sites are relying heavily on advanced JavaScript using frameworks like jQuery (which I love btw). I have been continually frustrated trying to view something via Opera mobile and it either runs painfully slow (usually due to some form of AJAX) or it simply does not work. There’s nothing worse than seeing an interesting updated via Twitter, click on the link, and page is loading… loading… You see the infamous spinning spinner graphic, and… nothing. Not going anywhere. Damn.

I think this also explains the prominence of mobile apps as opposed to better-working sites on mobile. I’m glad to see that hugely popular sites like Twitter and Facebook have mobile sites, but they aren’t exactly delivering a rich web experience. Not to mention they aren’t the default if you go to the site on your phone. (You have to know to put “m.facebook.com” into the address bar; I’ll admit, though, that this could be due to mobile browser delivering deceptive user-agent values to the site.) Suffice to say, mobile sites are too stripped-down and desktop sites are too heavy; there seems to be nothing in-between.

Put your website on a diet

Enter Facebook Lite. Could this be the answer?

Site developers need to keep in mind that users may be viewing their “desktop” site via a mobile browser. I think that developing a “lite” version and placing a prominent link to allow users to switch between the two is probably the best answer. At least, that’s the best I can come up with now…