Why Mobile Web Sites are Different

By Deane Barker on August 5, 2011

Defer Secondary Content When Writing for Mobile Users: Jakob Nielsen nails why mobile devices are inherently harder to consume content with, based entirely on screen size.

Prior research has shown that it’s 108% harder to understand information when reading from a mobile screen. Content comprehension suffers when you’re looking through a peephole, because there’s little visible context. The less you can see, the more you have to remember, and human short-term memory is notoriously weak.

He’s right – a smaller screen means you can see less of the ancillary content on a page which shows context.  Less context makes it harder to absorb information.

I know mobile is the hot thing right now, but mobile devices will just never be as usable as a full-size browser.  If you plan right, you can get closer, but you always have to make changes, and you always have to compromise.

So, when I wrote this

This has left me wondering about the future of “mobile versions” of Web sites. How much longer will you need to code a separate version of your Web site for mobile versions? […] You’d just need to design your site well, and perhaps make a few very small concessions to mobile devices (or maybe none at all).

…I was clearly wrong.

What This Links To


  1. Then why are kindle’s so popular?

    I’ve read 1000+ page kindle books on my iPhone. I consume 400+ feeds a day with my reader app on my iPhone.

    It isn’t the length or quantity of content, it is the relevance of the content. Yes, we should strive for less verbiage across the board, because there will be less irrelevant fluff that turns off the reader.

    I say you were right.

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