There Is No Mobile Internet! // @smashingmag – smashingmagazine.com


By Marek Wolski

A Quiet Change

At the beginning of June, Google published on its Webmaster Central Blog its “Recommendations for Building Smartphone-Optimized Websites.” Its recommendations are that responsiveness — or, where necessary, device-specific HTML — is the way to build websites for today. Both methods are based on all devices accessing one URL, which in Google’s words makes it “easier for your users to interact with, share, and link to…”

Following the recommendation means making most of your Web content accessible across devices. It ensures that each link shared across the Web leads back to the same place and that, irrespective of the user’s device, everyone gets the same design experience. It aims to standardize Web design approaches, but also to standardize user experience expectations.

Shortly after, Apple announced a lot of thrilling updates to iOS 6. One of the least talked about was Safari’s iCloud tabs. This syncs your open browser tabs and allows you to continue browsing from where you left off on another device. Google’s recent version of Chrome for iOS has the same feature. The result? The ultimate cross-media surfing experience, a digital doggy bag.

After many years of Internet people working on standards, technologies and practices to bring about a One Web experience, the two companies made a big push towards making it a reality. We are now a big step closer to, in the words of the W3C, “an Internet where as far as reasonably possible, the same information and services are available to users irrespective of the device they are using.” Well, that is only if website owners and brands get their act together and change their old ways. To do so, they will need to recognize that things aren’t what they seem and aren’t what many are still peddling.

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Old Habits, Old Stereotypes

A couple of years ago, mobile devices couldn’t even handle many of the Web’s fundamental standards (JavaScript, for example). But as devices became as powerful as last year’s MacBook, the technology drove a behavioral shift. It wasn’t just early adopters who were using the mobile Web. It was every person and their dog with a smartphone and a 3G connection (around 75% of smartphone owners surf the Web).

Our Mobile Planet - General Smartphone Activities
Image source: Our Mobile Planet.

The line between what is and isn’t Web-enabled is blurring. People don’t see the Internet on their phone or tablet as being the “mobile Internet.” It’s just the Internet. In the words of mobile expert Brad Frost, “mobile users will do anything and everything desktop users will do, provided it’s presented in a usable way.”

For the last few years, across categories, mobile experience benchmarking studies have been filled with recommendations to broaden and deepen the content available. Users are searching more and longer for information that currently isn’t available on mobile or even tablet devices.

Mobile Site vs Full Site
Image source: Strangeloop.

This desire for information is prevalent and strong enough that many opt for a less than optimal visit to the “full site” in order to access more or other information. The fact that almost a third of mobile users are prepared to endure poor navigation, slow loading times and no touch optimization really underscores the presence of this fundamental behavior.

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