Your website should (probably) not have a unique mobile version

If you are the owner of a higher resolution mobile or tablet device (such as the iOS devices, Google Nexus devices, Samsung devices, etc.), you understand the frustration when a website defaults you to a mobile version or mobile “friendly” version of the site.¬†Even more off putting is that many of these mobile sites skin themselves to iOS, such as Wunderground.

Screenshot of Wunderground mobile version of the site on Samsung Galaxy Note II

For those weather enthusiasts that are not using an iOS device, it at very least gives the impression that you do not care about your non-iOS users. Moreover, the information is not presented in such a way that someone with a larger display than a previous generation iOS device can appreciate.

If we take a look at the desktop version of the site on my Galaxy Note II, you can see it is quite pleasing while presenting more information than before.

Screenshot of Wunderground desktop version of the site on Samsung Galaxy Note II





When I was using my iPhone 3G, the mobile site was quite pleasing. But that was years ago now, and average device resolution has improved with time. Back then it was “Browser”, now it’s Firefox Mobile or Chrome (or some other WebKit based browser, such as Safari). If a mobile user is using Chrome, it is likely that they are using a next generation device and do not wish to see a mobile version of the site.

You can argue that older devices and even iPhones need these smaller, custom, web versions but many users disagree.

Unless your analytics tell you straight up that the unique mobile versions are worth maintaining, this type of behavior feels like supporting IE 5 and 800×600 did in 2007. Something obnoxious that your behind the times policy at work makes you do.

The elephant in the room, of course, is that responsive design has more or less made this practice not only in bad taste, but bad design and bad code. It reflects poorly upon you, the developer, when you have generic mobile version of your site, rather than some nice responsive design that just does it for you. While some sites execute these custom sites beautifully, devices are becoming more advanced with mobile device resolution increasing with each product launch. Annoying your users for the benefit of late adopters will punish those desirable, more likely to convert, users while rewarding the reluctant.