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Ask Slashdot: Why Do Mobile Versions of Websites Suck?

Unknown Lamer posted about 7 months ago | from the second-system dept.

The Internet 382

First time accepted submitter Kelbear writes "As user traffic over mobile devices grows in leaps and bounds, it's surprising to me as a layman that so many companies still have crippled and broken mobile pages in late 2013. There must be justifiable reasons for this, so: Fellow Slashdotters, can you please share the obstacles you've seen in your own companies that have delayed or defeated efforts to develop competent mobile sites? Are the issues in obtaining or maintaining compatibility driven by platform owners like Apple and Google?"

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Slashdot being a prime example of bad (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45771365)

The mobile version chokes up my browser so badly that I frequently just close the tab and move on to other sites. It's very annoying that I can't see the regular site from my iPad. (Maybe if I logged, but I don't want to log in)

Re: Slashdot being a prime example of bad (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45771461)

I actually prefer, and mostly read Slashdot via mobile... either on my phone or tablet. The same goes for news sites and "blog type" sites.. less clutter gets me right to the content. That being said, most mobile sites downright suck. I refuse to bank, shop, or do any research via mobile web. I just isn't conducive to getting things done. So yes, I agree with the premise, but not this particular example.

Re: Slashdot being a prime example of bad (2)

AvitarX (172628) | about 7 months ago | (#45771759)

I can't figure out how to display comments that are filtered due to low mod on the mobile site.

Re:Slashdot being a prime example of bad (1, Informative)

C18H27NO3 (1282172) | about 7 months ago | (#45771493)

I just brought Slashdot up on my phone (Sprint Galaxy S3) and it popped right up without any issues. No performance or formatting problems that I could see in either Chrome or Firefox. /shrug

Re:Slashdot being a prime example of bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45771939)

Same here on an iPhone 4S, no issues at all. OP is probably just whining about slashdot for the sake of whining.

Re:Slashdot being a prime example of bad (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45771555)

Agreed. When I try to browse Slashdot using my Kindle, it is redirected to the mobile version which then goes into an infinite reload loop and never renders. Thank goodness for the Linux Home Page [linuxhomepage.com] !

Re:Slashdot being a prime example of bad (2)

symbolset (646467) | about 7 months ago | (#45771621)

If it could just remember that I never want to see that catastrophe again, a setting maybe, that would be great. Having to request the desktop site EVERY FIVE MINUTES has become a drag.

Re: Slashdot being a prime example of bad (2)

rickb928 (945187) | about 7 months ago | (#45771803)

Yes, Slashdot's mobile site sucis. On my Android phone, having to log in to reply forces me to drag the screen up to get the Ligon button above the keyboard, and there is no keyboard drop. In the Feedly browser, lift too far and got close the page and lose the reply. Pus.

Yes, is the interaction between Feedly and /., and I'm not expecting it to be addressed, because the fingerpointing will start in 3, 2,...

Re:Slashdot being a prime example of bad (5, Insightful)

pspahn (1175617) | about 7 months ago | (#45771963)

Apple has stated that site owners should serve a specific version for iPad users. I can't find their FAQ that discusses this, but I remember it from about a year ago.

Yes, an iPad specific theme provides a better experience for iPad users; however, this simply adds additional fragmentation to the web developer's workflow and is precisely the reason the movement has been so strong in the last few years to get away from browser/platform specific "workarounds".

We (web developers) have had to deal with IE for so long that when something new comes along that forces us into the same box we've been clawing our way out of, well, it's not surprising that we tell our bosses not to do it.

Consider that even as we near 2014, most web sites are not responsive. The whole responsive movement relies on building a site's theme into about three flavors (suit to taste); desktop, smaller screens (small laptops, etc) and mobile. The gray area between "small screen" and mobile is quite large and iPad suffers because it is often treated as a mobile device. After all, it has a touch screen like a mobile device. It is smaller than a desktop like a mobile device. It has a battery... etc etc.

When all is said and done, you're looking at the mobile version of a site on an iPad because the days of coding a specific version of a site for a specific device are behind us and it's a massive waste of money and resources.

case in point (4, Insightful)

fermion (181285) | about 7 months ago | (#45771371)

/.

and no way to turn it off.

Mobile sites just make too many assumptions, with no way to configure. Mostly those assumptions have to with advertisements.

Re:case in point (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45771563)

Not sure if you know but there's also

http://slashdot.org/palm

which also sucks, albeit in a different way.

And since we have somehow stumbled into a story where slashdot's suckiness is on-topic, let me take this opportunity to say:

HTTPS, slashdot. You're exposing us all, and crippling your anonymous comment mode, as long as you keep delaying switching over. Hurry up.

Re: case in point (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45771583)

Yes you can; the Chrome browser let's you request the desktop site.

Re:case in point (2)

xlsior (524145) | about 7 months ago | (#45771587)

/.
and no way to turn it off.


Eh?

You do have the option to switch between the mobile and the full site on a mobile device

Re:case in point (4, Informative)

sumdumass (711423) | about 7 months ago | (#45771731)

Install a separate browser then change the user agent settings to represent a desktop.

I do this on my phone and it solves the problem of crappy sites but I still have a browser I can go back to for those sites I need the mobile version for.

Re: case in point (2)

krisyan (2812943) | about 7 months ago | (#45771925)

Or they could just build a better mobile site...

Re:case in point (1)

pspahn (1175617) | about 7 months ago | (#45772009)

This only works because of the terrible practice of checking a user agent string to decide which version to display. YMMV.

If a site simply uses @media breakpoints in a single (or merged) stylesheet and serves that stylesheet to everyone, changing your UA string will do nothing. If that's the case, hit F12 and find the section in the style sheet that mentions "@media" and has some values for device widths. Not sure if there's a browser plug-in out there that lets you override and save CSS info on a site by site basis, but that would be an answer.

Re:case in point (5, Funny)

z0idberg (888892) | about 7 months ago | (#45771837)

Obligatory:

http://xkcd.com/869/ [xkcd.com]

Re:case in point (1)

jones_supa (887896) | about 7 months ago | (#45771847)

Damn it would be cool if Slashdot had a discrete API for pulling news and messages. Nice, fast and configurable native clients could be developed to any platform.

Re:case in point (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45771975)

It's almost like it's supported RSS for years

Re:case in point (4, Informative)

yincrash (854885) | about 7 months ago | (#45771881)

Force 'classic' mode [slashdot.org]

Re:case in point (4, Informative)

Proudrooster (580120) | about 7 months ago | (#45771913)

BUMP! I second this, Mod this up. Mobile slashdot is wretched and SLOOOOOOWWWW!!!

Re:case in point (1)

TheNastyInThePasty (2382648) | about 7 months ago | (#45771889)

Have you tried classic.slashdot.org ? I always browse the desktop version of /. on my phone because of how epically bad the mobile version is. I dead the day that the beta website becomes standard. That's worse than windows 8 level fail.

Answer your own question, Slashdot! (5, Informative)

dugancent (2616577) | about 7 months ago | (#45771385)

The mobile version of Slashdot sucks hard.

Re:Answer your own question, Slashdot! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45771407)

Usually, that's a good thing.

Re:Answer your own question, Slashdot! (1)

Oysterville (2944937) | about 7 months ago | (#45771605)

That's what I tell your mom.

Re:Answer your own question, Slashdot! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45771957)

Better buy a vacuum pump. My mom's dead.

Re:Answer your own question, Slashdot! (3, Interesting)

Threni (635302) | about 7 months ago | (#45771469)

This. I keep getting asked to try it out and fill in some sort of bland, pointless questionnaire that doesn't let me express what I feel about it.

Horrible ajaxy stuff so you have no idea if it's doing something or died. Would help if there were some sort of standard `i'm doing something` animation or indication across all sites, but no. Flashy rather than basic functionality.

Mobile sites often remove stuff that would work perfectly well on a mobile site. Mobile doesn't have to mean retarded. Switching from mobile to full and vice versa should keep me on the same page in the same session, not dump me at the front page. Stop using hover on your sites - you can't hover with most mobile devices and even on a desktop it's tedious to click on something only to observe that it was a hover and you were supposed to wait for some stupid animation to finish expanding to show you a choice you were supposed to have selected one of. Stop being clever and get the basic functionality right.

Re:Answer your own question, Slashdot! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45771537)

That. I keep getting asked to try it out and fill in some sort of bland, pointless questionnaire that doesn't let me express what I feel about it.

Horrible ajaxy stuff so you have no idea if it's doing something or died. Would help if there were some sort of standard `i'm doing something` animation or indication across all sites, but no. Flashy rather than basic functionality.

Mobile sites often remove stuff that would work perfectly well on a mobile site. Mobile doesn't have to mean retarded. Switching from mobile to full and vice versa should keep me on the same page in the same session, not dump me at the front page. Stop using hover on your sites - you can't hover with most mobile devices and even on a desktop it's tedious to click on something only to observe that it was a hover and you were supposed to wait for some stupid animation to finish expanding to show you a choice you were supposed to have selected one of. Stop being clever and get the basic functionality right.

Re:Answer your own question, Slashdot! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45771509)

"Slashdot sucks hard ."
 
FTFY.

Re:Answer your own question, Slashdot! (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45771573)

The mobile version of Slashdot sucks hard.

AJAX.

The more you try and make it "responsive", the less it works.

This is a motherfucking website [motherfuckingwebsite.com] . It renders in every browser. It doesn't require Javascript, Java, Flash, AIR, or HTML5. It doesn't load 100kB of jQuery. In fact, the entire website takes up less space than most avatars do.

It. just. works.

Slashdot: Please abort the failed beta. Give the guy his money and let him go. Give him a promotion, he's obviously learned a lot about the hot new thing that'll look good on his resume next time. But please, just please, don't put that beta into production. It doesn't even have a 'view all comments' option. It's less functional than the current AJAX failure of D2, which itself was far less functional than the classic/D1 version. Please. Just. Stop.

Re:Answer your own question, Slashdot! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45771635)

We run a porn site. We decided to go responsive for our website as 50% of our visitors were on a mobile device. Mobile only versions in general sucks donkeys. We wanted to give our visitors as close the desktop version as we could.
As it is porn, we are also developing an app to delivery just the pics and videos only, with the option to swap over to the responsive site if required.

mobile is for a quick check on the go (1, Flamebait)

alen (225700) | about 7 months ago | (#45771387)

not for hours of detailed surfing on a site

if you want a good experience for mobile, code an app

Re:mobile is for a quick check on the go (1, Insightful)

csumpi (2258986) | about 7 months ago | (#45771411)

Bullshit. Apps suck even more. Get a device with a big enough screen, and use the desktop version of the internet.

Re:mobile is for a quick check on the go (3, Insightful)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 7 months ago | (#45771941)

"Get a device with a big enough screen, and use the desktop version of the internet."

I would not have worded it the same way you did, but I agree.

The reason mobile versions of web sites suck, is because mobile devices suck.

They're okay for what they are. But there are reasons why books and newspapers (for hundreds-of-years-old classic examples) aren't printed on 2.5" x 4" paper. And that reason is: it is just plain not enough room to convey information well via the printed word. You can still fit it in if you make the print tiny, but then it's unreadable by half the population.

Period. End of story. Granted, some sites could do better, but you aren't going to change the basic, underlying problem.

Get a device with a big enough screen, and the internet isn't painful anymore. It's that simple.

Re:mobile is for a quick check on the go (1)

Threni (635302) | about 7 months ago | (#45771513)

What, like the Android version of Facebook or Dropbox? Both suck hard on a 10" tablet. Why is this? Android tablets are an edge case? They think they look good? Loading up the Facebook site on a Nexus 10 brings up the mobile version. Why? I mean, it's better than the app, but what's wrong with taking me to the full version of the site? Why isn't the app better than the site?

Re:mobile is for a quick check on the go (1)

tepples (727027) | about 7 months ago | (#45771673)

[Mobile Facebook.com is] better than the app, but what's wrong with taking me to the full version of the site?

Sites that depend on SWF or on CSS :hover can't be used on mobile.

Re:mobile is for a quick check on the go (1)

Ambassador Kosh (18352) | about 7 months ago | (#45771741)

However works on the galaxy note series of items so long as you are using the spen. However what I have learned is to mostly work on removing hover wherever possible since it is non-obvious to many people. The bootstrap menus do a nice job of making a menu that works without hover and is immediately obvious what it does and how it works.

Re:mobile is for a quick check on the go (1)

joh (27088) | about 7 months ago | (#45771745)

not for hours of detailed surfing on a site

if you want a good experience for mobile, code an app

So why people complain at smartphones batteries giving out after 6 hours in a day?

Believe me, people DO use smartphones to do heavy surfing. They really do. People do everything (and more) on smartphones they do on PCs.

Re:mobile is for a quick check on the go (1)

crutchy (1949900) | about 7 months ago | (#45771861)

mobile is for a quick check on the go not for hours of detailed surfing on a site

if this is in fact the case, someone should inform all the younger generations with their eyes and fingers glued to their phones for an unnaturally long portion of the day

either that or enterprising companies could get with the times and more engage/attract/exploit these users by building mobile versions of websites that don't suck

Re:mobile is for a quick check on the go (1)

tepples (727027) | about 7 months ago | (#45771917)

if you want a good experience for mobile, code an app

And watch Apple or Microsoft end up rejecting it.

Re: mobile is for a quick check on the go (1)

krisyan (2812943) | about 7 months ago | (#45771965)

Some people do spend a lot of time using mobile devices for a whole lot of reasons. In the amount of time it takes them to build some sparkly app for one platform, they could have just built a decent website.

budget (4, Insightful)

cultiv8 (1660093) | about 7 months ago | (#45771393)

And technical incompetence.

CSS (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45771401)

Because CSS is pretty god damn horrible overall and still has horrible support for collapsing a column-based layout to a row-based layout for easy consumption on a tallscreen for things like mobiles.

And most developers cannot be bothered putting in the effort to make a decently collapsible site simply due to this.

Not to mention there are still developers out there making stupid fixed-width designs because they are still stuck in the IE age of thinking. (which itself is pretty damn retarded because you can make 100% flexible + fixed column layouts IN IE6 trivially! I did one while I was on holiday and spent like an hour:30 overall across 7 days for both 2 and 3 column support where the 1 or 2 columns were fixed widths and middle flexi)

So, generally? Developers suck. This isn't really news, most webdevs aren't remotely good at all, just like any group of developers really.
There are a bunch of decent mobile sites, but as always with most industries, most of X sucks regardless.
There are extremely few industries where that isn't the case, but webdev certainly is not one of those.

Re:CSS (1)

binarylarry (1338699) | about 7 months ago | (#45771789)

Web technologies themselves suck and unfortunately they also set the development bar very low, so pseudo-developers can make shit.

This is a recipe for lulz and swearing.

Speaking of which... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45771413)

The mobile website for Slashdot is absolutely MISERABLE on my 3rd gen iPad! it literally sits there unresponsive for about 20 seconds. Ironically, the normal desktop version of the slashdot website loads and works almost instantly.

Not really that popular (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 7 months ago | (#45771423)

I really don't think that browsing the web on a mobile phone is all that popular, or even something that people want to do. And this comes from someone with unlimited data and a phone with a 4 inch screen. I rarely feel the need to just browse the web on my phone. I do lots of online things like read RSS feeds, listen to podcasts, read my email, look up maps, and lots of other stuff, but none of this requires a web browser. Just about anything that I'd want to do with my phone is much better done by an app, even if the site has a good mobile version. I'm getting a tablet this year for Christmas, and I'm looking forward to never having to use my phone for the web ever again. It's not because the sites are bad, but just that the kind of browsing I want to do requires more reading than I want to do on a cell phone.

Re:Not really that popular (1)

aztracker1 (702135) | about 7 months ago | (#45771645)

It really depends on your demographics... my old workplace (auto classifieds site) now gets about 20% of its' traffic from mobile (mostly tablet, mostly ipad) and it's not even a mobile friendly site.

My biggest issues with mobile sites is when they don't allow zoom and the text is too damned small.

Re:Not really that popular (2)

i.r.id10t (595143) | about 7 months ago | (#45771813)

Just about anything that I'd want to do with my phone is much better done by an app, even if the site has a good mobile version

My issue is that I shouldn't need an app to access the same info I can get via a browser on the desktop. Why, if that app does a better job, does it ask for permissions to data it has no need to access?

slashdot mobile case in point (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45771435)

Have you tried to load the slashdot site in a mobile browser. It sucks! Mobile versions should load quickly.

Doesn't matter any longer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45771441)

It doesn't seem to matter a whole lot any longer. Display the full-fidelity site and just pinch-zoom navigate if you can't see the content. This isn't a problem since most smartphones have high resolution displays nowadays.

There are some sites that try to go the extra mile with flexbox layouts though. Beyond that, it doesn't seem worth it.

Frameworks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45771467)

Business is all about cost savings. There are way more frameworks available now than when they created their desktop bohemoth website. The frameworks tend to trend things towards one "feel". It seems the current frameworks aren't feeling what "we the users" want (about the same as the government thinks of "we the people" perhaps?).

Fundamentally... (3, Interesting)

msauve (701917) | about 7 months ago | (#45771479)

If you consider that it's all about communicating information, smaller screens mean lower bandwidth.

Especially in a world where people seem to prefer passive information (i.e. "show me," instead of "teach me"), why would it be expected that a smaller screen with lower bandwidth wouldn't be worse?

Worse than that (1)

hsmith (818216) | about 7 months ago | (#45771489)

When you Google something and select a result - the website redirects you to the mobile version of their home page - not the content you want. Thus, you can never get to what you are looking for...

Re:Worse than that (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45771585)

Yah, horrible when you can't get to your porn.

Re:Worse than that (1)

Zynder (2773551) | about 7 months ago | (#45771649)

Hey that may have been a snide jab but it is, in fact, terribly annoying when the porn sites decide that they're gonna hijack the browser by appending their advert URL in front of the URL of the content you want but inevitably breaks the whole page, still somehow managing to do popup windows even though there is a blocker that is on, and doing whatever that refresh bullshit is that web pages do that stops you from going "back" but just reloading the page you're watching. The porn sites didn't learn this shit on their own either. Google started that crap and it now infects all of our websites.

Xkcd already posted (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45771983)

When you Google something and select a result - the website redirects you to the mobile version of their home page - not the content you want. Thus, you can never get to what you are looking for...

Sorry but the obligatory XKCD comic for that complaint has already been posted.

Developers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45771497)

Because developers aren't forced to use what they produce.

Phones inherently suck for browsing. What I'm saying is that they have intrinsic, objective, negative-value in terms of UI and enjoyment.

Re:Developers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45771891)

...which is precisely why free software is superior - it's usually created when some developer has an actual need for something, so that developer, being the user, will make damn sure it's not a pain to use.

Mobile effort (1)

danielnashnz (1755160) | about 7 months ago | (#45771503)

Mobile sites take _a_lot_ more effort - to get something working at, say, desktop + tablet + tablet portrait + small tablet + mobile landscape + mobile portrait takes (unsurprisingly) 6 times the design effort and often the same front-end development effort. Unless a project is aimed at the mobile market, most don't care enough to multiply their budget six times. Saying that a desktop site works fine on modern smartphone / retina displays is a fatuous comment - your fatuous fingers aren't going to scale to retina resolution when you poke that link. To make a site work well at that size it needs designing for that size.

What's a "Mobiles"? (2, Insightful)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 7 months ago | (#45771507)

Mobile PC? What's that? A notebook, right? Or one of those ones with detachable keyboards? Maybe you mean the ones with blutooth keyboard sold separately and the smaller (or, egad!, tiny) screens?

Yeah, the reason the mobile site sucks is because there is no such thing as a mobile personal computer. It's just a PC with a very capital P. If your hardware sucks, well, sorry man. Get with the times. I don't expect to play Gears of War on my 16 bit 80386 DOS machine.

There's this thing called Moore's Law. You see, and you're what we call an "Early Adopter". Early adopters have shitty times -- You decided to pay good money for a shitty experience. So, they keep selling you the shitty experience and you complain that you keep buying it. Sorry pal, no sympathy. By the time I re-engineer my stuff to work on "low powered" pieces of crap, they'll have caught up with my 6 year old dual core laptop which runs the web just fine (oops, too late, they already did).

The folks who didn't grok this made some shitty website designs because they were too dumb not to. When they did so their primary use case was still bigger screen devices with more power, so they didn't give it their best shot. Fuckers like the fools doing the Slashdot redesign are trying to make "One Design To Rule Them All" -- Instead of just laying down the law: You've got shitty hardware, your shit will be slow. And letting market forces sort it out.

Touch-controlled and ARM-powered (1)

tepples (727027) | about 7 months ago | (#45771691)

A "mobile" PC here is touch-controlled and ARM-powered. This usually means no hover and no SWF.

Re:What's a "Mobiles"? (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | about 7 months ago | (#45771753)

Mobile PC? What's that? A notebook, right? Or one of those ones with detachable keyboards? Maybe you mean the ones with blutooth keyboard sold separately and the smaller (or, egad!, tiny) screens?

Close. Mobile is here simply synonym for "small screen". And the absence of a proper device, such as a mouse.

Re:What's a "Mobiles"? (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | about 7 months ago | (#45771763)

Misedited that. Should be "absence of a pointing device".

Re:What's a "Mobiles"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45771893)

The Nature vs Nurture argument needs some more anecdotal evidence so it can make grossly incorrect overly broad generalizations and otherwise keep circle jerking ourselves off. To that end, can you please tell myself and /. if you were born a dickhead or was it the training you received growing up that taught you to be such a mega-douchenozzle?

Re:What's a "Mobiles"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45771901)

80386 was 32-bit. Surrender your nerd card.

Re:What's a "Mobiles"? (1)

tepples (727027) | about 7 months ago | (#45771949)

For one thing, 386SX has a 16-bit data bus, so it's 16-bit in the same way that the MC68000 in the Sega Genesis game console is 16-bit: 32-bit registers and a 16-bit data bus. For another, even if you bought a 386DX, Windows 3 applications were still 16-bit for the most part. Few people ran any Win32s apps, and fewer still ran Windows 95 without first buying at least a 486.

Slashdot used to have a great mobile site (5, Insightful)

caseih (160668) | about 7 months ago | (#45771545)

Maybe a year or two ago, Slashdot on mobile was great. It looked and functioned relatively similarly to the full site, but was formatted for narrow phone screens. It worked great. You could read comments, configure the comments, post comments, and moderate. It was, in my opinion, a perfect blend of the functionality of the full site with a mobile-optimized site. Sadly, Dice threw that all out and now we have the horrid mobile slashdot site. Ironically the traditional desktop site is more usable on the mobile screen than the mobile site. The new slashdot beta, on the other hand, well it just proves Dice doesn't really understand what this site it bought actually is.

Kudos to the submitter for managing to submit a story that really is, "why does slashot mobile suck?" but in a form that the story moderators accepted.

Once the beta desktop site goes live, I expect to see a story, "Why do site redesigns suck?" Sadly participating in that conversation will be much more difficult as even figuring out how to read comments in a sane way seems to be impossible with the new beta, let alone posting!

Kindle store useless (1)

quintesse (654840) | about 7 months ago | (#45771553)

I have this with the Amazon store from within the Kindle app. It's completely useless compared to the desktop website. Even things as simple as turning the author's name into a link to their other works just isn't there. And that's just a simple link, so it can't be because they need to make it work for simple devices. So they only reason I can come up with is that they simply don't care.

It's easy to get right (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45771579)

Just do a multi-column layout with a content column that is narrow enough to be comfortably read on a smartphone. That's it. On a smartphone you can then just zoom into the content and read it and if you want to look at all the side stuff, shift over. On larger screens you get all the content in a readable width (instead of lines 150 characters long) and with all the side stuff in view. Best of both worlds.

What totally, utterly sucks is the "responsive design" sites that load a MB of CSS and Javascript frameworks and libraries to adapt the layout to smaller screens and force you to download that one MB of stuff just to view 25 KB of content. Show me a site using responsive design that is actually responsive (as in loading quickly). My personal test is this: I stop breathing when I tap on a link and if I feel uncomfortable when the page finally is there it's no good. I use this test since 1994 and it still works!

What side stuff? (2)

tepples (727027) | about 7 months ago | (#45771735)

Just do a multi-column layout with a content column that is narrow enough to be comfortably read on a smartphone.

So once I've started with #bodytext {max-width: 32em} for comfortable reading without skipping or rereading lines, what "side stuff" should I add on wider screens such as desktop and large tablets? I've read complaints that a web design isn't "using the full width" of a 1920px wide maximized PC browser window.

Re:It's easy to get right (1)

manu0601 (2221348) | about 7 months ago | (#45771867)

Just do a multi-column layout with a content column that is narrow enough to be comfortably read on a smartphone.

If you do that, please add a link at the bottom of column n, to jump to the top of column n+1

It's not just mobile versions that suck (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45771593)

It's not just mobile versions, as a rule of thumb web 2.0 sucks in general. Everything is bloated and hard to navigate because of said bloat. People use scripting and other crap for things that can be done just fine with regular HTML.

Re:It's not just mobile versions that suck (1)

manu0601 (2221348) | about 7 months ago | (#45771689)

Navigate using print version, it is much less bloated.

WebDev here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45771601)

A couple of problems with mobile.

1) the website release schedule is generally 3-4 years. A company will keep a site for 3 years before replacing it. A site written without mobile in mind probably isn't going to get it until a major rebuild
2) Standards change biweekly. iDevices need special meta tags to function properly. Viewport width != window width anymore, and not all designers recognize that or compensate for it.
3) people are cheap and won't pay for it. desktop and Mobile takes more time, and therefore billable hours, than just desktop.

They dont have to suck. (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 7 months ago | (#45771655)

There are very good mobile websites, the problem is 99% of them are an afterthought. Oh we designed out website, now make a very simple mobile one quickly.

jQuery (mobile) has some awesome features that make the mobile version of a website fantastic.

Sadly it takes a site designer with real skills to make a good site that looks good across platforms, and that means expensive. Most companies barely want to pay the minimum for their website let alone what it takes to get a competent company that can make a fantastic one that also looks and works great on a mobile device.

Mobile version? (1)

manu0601 (2221348) | about 7 months ago | (#45771659)

You mean WML version?

Re:Mobile version? (1)

Richy_T (111409) | about 7 months ago | (#45771717)

I'm having trouble setting up the gateway.

MARKETING AND COMMUNICATION FAILURES (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45771663)

...they mostly think that mobile sites are a also run, non strategic asset, instead IT IS EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE, as the overwhelming majority of browsing or service discovery AND USAGE is ACTUALLY ON MOBILE....

Mobile sites are a mistake (4, Insightful)

Karmashock (2415832) | about 7 months ago | (#45771683)

Mobile sites should be the same site just with less/no flash and tighter layout. Beyond that, the site should be identical.

What is annoying about mobile sites is that frequently they're totally different and since they're second string productions they tend to be missing stuff.

Re:Mobile sites are a mistake (2)

chuckinator (2409512) | about 7 months ago | (#45771795)

Exactly this. The mobile version is a one off version of the primary development effort. Mobile browsers are supposed to be modern and fully supporting web standards, but it's not enough if the site designers make you jump through too many hoops (if you're allowed at all) just to get to the regular version again.

In one word: Traffic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45771713)

It's a chicken and egg problem:
No budget because no traffic, and no traffic because the site suck

When a web-site like Slashdot have 80% of their traffic through a regular fully-powered desktop browser, with a 19in+ Monitor, it is easy to make the math that 80% of the development budget should go to the regular web-site. Mobile web sites are usually an afterthought, because they do not generate enough traffic.

And do not forget the ROI (Return on investment) for e-comm sites, where they see that a mere 1% of the transaction done on their site comes from Mobile browsers and/or apps, while the rest is done on regular desktop browser.

Owners (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45771715)

As a (former, hopefully forever) Web Designer, I have to say one reason could be resistance from business owners who are obsessed with the "look and feel" of their website. Trying to cram a magazine ad onto a mobile screen (and make it legible) is a pain in the ass.

Blame the phones (0)

Murdoch5 (1563847) | about 7 months ago | (#45771721)

If phone makers would standardize screen sizes and resolutions then we could make great mobile sites. The problem is they don't and hence with every new phone we need to re-scale and re-deploy the sites.

Ranges of screen sizes (1)

tepples (727027) | about 7 months ago | (#45771809)

Don't make a site work with a single screen size. Make it work with a range of screen sizes measured in ems. For example, use CSS3 media queries to serve to device widths less than 28em, a mini-tablet layout for less than 40em, a tablet layout for less than 56em, and the desktop interface for anything bigger than that.

Re:Blame the sites (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45772007)

If phone makers would standardize screen sizes and resolutions then we could make great mobile sites. The problem is they don't and hence with every new phone we need to re-scale and re-deploy the sites.

If site makers would deliver content instead of graphics then we could make a range of great mobile devices. The problem is they do not understand the meaning of the term "Markup Language".

bad design and dev practices (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45771729)

Just look at slashdot's mobile site. It's horrible, and barely functional.

They could have done much better by just fixing one control (the full | abbreviated | hidden slider) to work with touch screens. Instead they gave us a new version of the site that fails to load any content if you open an article in a background tab in safari (probably the most common use case).

What causes this?
Over ambitious designers (It's going to look different anyway, why not start from scratch with a design that matches my personal taste?)
Over ambitious marketers (Our demographic wants to do only this one thing on the phone, we should cut all of the other functionality; really, trust us!)
Over ambitious managers (Why spend days tweaking the current site for mobile, when we can spend weeks estimating out the timeline to build a new mobile version of the site instead?)

Even if you do plan on a grand new mobile site, you should spend a little time fixing up your current site first to mitigate the risk of the larger project, and leave the main site easily available as an option (think of it as A B testing writ large, if that helps).

Intentional device discrimination (1)

tepples (727027) | about 7 months ago | (#45771785)

Some video providers sell PC rights to one company and sell mobile rights to another. This produces "The content owner has not made this video available on mobile" error messages.

When I look at a Facebook comment section with a desktop user agent, I get "Comment using..." that lets me log in with the Yahoo!, AIM, or Microsoft account that I already have, but with a mobile user agent, I get "Login to Facebook to Post a Comment". Nobody has yet managed to convince me of the benefit of having a Facebook account.

please don't make a mobile version (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 7 months ago | (#45771831)

just don't make a mobile version. please. you're not smart enough.

I hate going to websites on my phone and being kicked into some crippled view that doesn't have what I want. so just, don't.

I can navigate the sites I know very well on my phone's browser. no "help" needed.

The problem is "Mobile Version" (5, Insightful)

intermelt (196274) | about 7 months ago | (#45771833)

Modern phones don't really need a mobile version of a site. As a user I usually find myself forcing the "desktop" version of the site when I can. As a web developer I usually tell people not to waste their money on a mobile version. Most mobile sites suck because someone decided they needed a mobile version either for cool factor or to please a boss. They didn't have a good budget and cut corners on every aspect. There are use cases where a website should be done in a mobile format and can be useful when the budget is available.

Lets start with good mobile sites. Those that should be mobile. These are sites that someone might access while actually on the go or need to do something quick. Think directions or ordering food. Most people don't want to shop Target from their phone. However a lot of people want to get directions to the closest Target. A good mobile site would prioritize the directions/location aspect. That works for retail and your standard service businesses. The other type is restaurants that deliver. When you are sitting in front of your TV and want to order a pizza, you obviously are in lazy mode. A restaurant mobile website can make the ordering process simple and quick. These are examples of use cases where mobile sites work and and should be used.

I think most mobile sites fall in the category of "we need a mobile site" This is where there is no budget and the client is offered a shitty mobile site so a developer can make a quick buck with buzz words. These sites tend to be created with generators or a general theme on a Wordpress site. Nothing special and usually makes the experience worse.

The last category is what you asked about. A good mobile friendly website. These are sites that don't fall into the restaurant/location (however I consider those ones that don't suck) category because they need more than just directions or ordering pizza. These types of sites cost a lot to develop. Developing a true user friendly mobile site is not easy. Think about developing a site for IE7, IE8, IE9, Safari, FF, and Chrome. Fairly standard a year or so ago. It took time. Now multiply that by 10. Ok so now you know the time involved to develop and test a good mobile site. However you only have a Galaxy S4 to test on. So now you need to go purchase multiple iPhones, multiple Android phones, a few iPads and maybe a few Android tablets. You can now start debugging on all these devices. Good luck! Oh and then ask your customers if they care. The ROI is not there.

This is why mobile sites suck. No one wants to invest the money to do it right. Even those that do invest the money either focus on a single platform or can't keep up with the ever changing community of mobile devices.

Taking some of the points from above you realize that you should just have a normal site and let people deal with zooming (pinching) in and out to click on links. Or maybe go for an app if you have something specialized.

 

Because no-one cares about your phone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45771849)

If you want to surf the web, use a PC with a large monitor. People will complain "waaaahhh. The web site doesn't look perfect on phone model X" Maybe if phones used just standard HTML 2.0 with no images (a.k.a. Lynx browser) then you could scroll the page on your tiny screen. In the web site editor, do a File > Export > HTML2 and upload to a "phone" directory. Problem solved.

Re:Because no-one cares about your phone (1)

tepples (727027) | about 7 months ago | (#45771851)

If you want to surf the web, use a PC with a large monitor.

That tends to require an expensive tethering plan in countries where it is customary to exclude tethering from the basic data plan.

Responsive design is hard (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45771855)

I'm a front end developer for large media websites, and a lot of what I do involves making those sites responsive so that they work well on mobile. A big part of the problem is that the development landscape is a lot like the desktop was in bad old days of IE 6 and 7. The debugging tools for mobile are all pretty sub-par. Working with iOS involves either owning an iPhone or using the tortuous iOS simulator (have fun awkwardly click-scrolling to the bottom of your site if you ever need to fix a problem in the footer), both of which restrict you to Safari's terrible developer panel. Debugging in Android is a degree worse; the SDK is a huge pain in the ass if you don't actually have an Android phone, and the proliferation of browsers and devices and OS versions make it nearly impossible to solve even simple problems in many cases. At this point my company only really offers support for the latest iOS safari and Chrome in Android. Anything beyond that is basically not feasible unless you want your developers to quit or go insane. It's really the wild west at this point, and that's not even touching the javascript execution issues on severely resource-constrained platforms. I won't get into that, since this guy already did a fantastic writeup of the problem: http://sealedabstract.com/rants/why-mobile-web-apps-are-slow/

So yeah, getting it right requires a lot of annoying, painstaking work with sub-par tools and a constantly shifting landscape. There's also the little mentioned fact that most of the devices that we target for responsive design were designed to handle full-sized sites gracefully, and most users prefer to just zoom the desktop site than deal with the odd omissions and restrictive behaviors of mobile sites. We generally refuse to do tablet responsive versions of sites for exactly this reason.

CSS3 viewport width (2)

tepples (727027) | about 7 months ago | (#45771905)

Two steps will help you make a fairly simple site mobile-friendly: 1. include the meta viewport tag, and 2. make CSS3 media queries that, when the width is below a certain distance in ems, move the sidebars (if any) below the body text or hide them behind a JavaScript toggle button. If the only difference between "mobile" and "desktop" is the viewport width, you can debug this by resizing the browser window narrower and using your existing desktop browser's debugger.

Because they shouldn't even exist. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45771871)

They shouldn't even exist. My phone has zoom, why would I want a dumbed down version of a site just because I'm using a phone?

Re:Because they shouldn't even exist. (1)

tepples (727027) | about 7 months ago | (#45771967)

My phone has zoom, why would I want a dumbed down version of a site just because I'm using a phone?

Because a finger is a far less precise pointing device than a mouse. Touch areas need to be bigger, and hover is impossible unless you're using a Galaxy Note with the included stylus. And if your site is focused on classic SWF, such as Kongregate or Newgrounds or Albino Blacksheep or Dagobah, SWF doesn't work on mobile.

Hacks atop hacks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45771937)

First: cell phones were not originally designed to be web browsers, nor was the cell phone infrastructure

Second: the original web browsers and markup language were designed for the desktop, human-readability, and a hard-wired network

As a result, HTML is designed for human editing, not efficient processing in an under-powered resource-starved environment and it has been repeatedly junked-up with add-ons and "improvements" like CSS and Javascript which are also less than optimal solutions. Web sites, being ad-driven and having long assumed users browsing on desktops, are no longer simple - even "simple" pages are loaded with scripts, videos, etc and make assumptions (that the screen is at least 1024x768, that the client has unlimited local cache and unlimited horsepower, etc). Cell phones, designed to be low-power, light, and small, have small screens with every model having a seemingly random choice of resolution and dimensions while having often less-than-optimal user input schemes. Add-in that most sites still get most access from desktops (therefore most site development is spent on the regular version rather than the mobile version) and the result is an avalanche of hacks, instead of a properly designed solution for hypertext delivery to mobile devices.

Ironically mobile websites used to be more useful. (1)

RJFerret (1279530) | about 7 months ago | (#45771951)

They used to offer the core functionality, without all the extra clutter and crap the regular version had. Mobile websites were quicker to load. Then mobile exploded in the marketplace, more companies started paying more attention to their mobile presence, and now often the mobile sites are no better than the web versions.

Either are improved by focusing on functionality first.

A lot of reasons (1)

WinstonWolfIT (1550079) | about 7 months ago | (#45771993)

Low bandwidth. Small screen. Basic keyboard. No mouse. Poor html and Javascript compatibility. Poor developer tools. An immature relatively crap platform makes for a poor user experience.

I'm a consulting commercial Web developer with decades of experience and mobiles take easily twice the time to deliver.

(This message typed from my phone and hating every word of it)

Google Mobile is bad, too. (1)

jackb_guppy (204733) | about 7 months ago | (#45771997)

I can barely use Google's Mobile. Why?
1) They have turned off the ability to reverse pinch to make the text bigger.
2) They are using White Background with Gray Letters.

Really guys, does anyone test their software in enviroment that is not a designed "normal" mode.

The internet with it's structure allowed for the user to adjust character size to make it readable... Now, you turn it off! Some great help or equallizer!

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