The sad state of mobile affairs
Marketers have a cruel streak. How else to explain the torments we inflict on consumers trying earnestly to connect with us on the mobile web? As smartphone penetration in the U.S. surges toward the 100 million mark, that's 100 million cases of eyestrain, anxiety, and high blood pressure, not to mention countless injuries related to tripping over curbs and wandering into traffic while attempting to "pinch to zoom."
Renowned usability expert Jakob Nielsen, a man not normally given to hyperbole, described this sorry state of affairs in dramatic terms in his 2009 report on mobile website usability: "Observing users suffer during our sessions reminded us of the very first usability studies we did with traditional websites in 1994. It was that bad."
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"But wait," you'll say. "That study is from back in the Jurassic Age of mobility, almost two years ago. Surely the mobile web has been transformed since then?" Well, no. We were going to transform the mobile web into something highly usable and useful, but then Angry Birds came along, resulting in a complete loss of productivity for 12 months at a cost of $100 billion to the U.S. economy. (These figures are approximate.)
So we're way overdue to give consumers some relief from these abysmal mobile experiences. We've got our work cut out for us: dotMobi reports that only 29.7 percent of the web's top 10,000 sites are optimized for mobile. And an increasingly mobile-savvy populace is demanding better experiences; they're willing to let their thumbs do the walking to competitors that can deliver a mobile site that works. But since it is better to light a single fire under the marketing community than to curse the darkness that is the mobile web, I humbly offer some simple recommendations based on five of the most common mobile site fails.