Best and Worst Of The Mobile Web

e-Book: The Best & Worst of the Mobile Web. A panel of top mobile marketers share their winners and sinners.

There are some fantastic mobile websites out there – but there are also some turkeys (and some sites that get it almost right).

This free e-Book takes you through the key principles behind mobile web success as highlighted by our distinguished panel of mobi-gurus (including contributions from the Yankee group, Gartner, Yahoo! and top marketing agencies and service providers).

There are plenty of examples of the winners and sinners, so get out your smartphone and get ready to browse some great and not-so-great mobile sites.

“They seem to have taken a one-size-fits-all approach instead of using device targeting.”

“…browser crashes, poor information display and limited functionality.”
“They’ve kept it clean, easy to read and crisp – and it’s advertiser-friendly, which can be overlooked by publishers.”

Here is a snippet of whats inside...

The mobile web is reaching critical mass.
After years of anticipation, all the pieces are finally falling into place. The devices, networks, users and brands are all on the same page…and it’s about 128 x 160 pixels (and growing).

As this “Best & Worst” survey shows, 2008 is the “late early stage” of the mobile web: the end of the beginning. There’s a huge disparity between best practice and common practice, with most mobile websites still clustering around the bottom of the effectiveness scale.

But from this cluster, a few brands are leaping out; they’re getting it right and reaping the rewards. They’re creating simple, compelling mobile web experiences that entertain, satisfy a real need or do both.

To take a snapshot of the mobile web today, we asked a panel of distinguished mobile-marketing experts to tell us their favorite mobile sites and the ones they found disappointing or needing improvement.

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BBC.mobi home page: “ It’s not the prettiest or the fastest, but if you want good news, it’s hard to beat.”

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eBay.mobi home page: “ How often have I got really annoyed when I missed out on winning an auction as I couldn’t be next to the PC? That problem is solved by eBay’s mobile site"

Rating for this article:
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This paper was written in November 2008. There has been no update thus far. But seeing as how people still find it useful, we should perhaps consider revisiting it.

I guess many of you have been following discussions on various attempts by network operators to transcode desktop web sites and squeeze them on to a mobile device,

At some point in the near future this discussion will need to include tablets. I am now having to support Android tablets with various resolutions. Mobile sites work on small screens but can look kind of empty with large vacant space on larger tablet screens. At the same time, desktop web site designs can look squishy on tablets. I am now supporting three basic types of device (desktop, tablet, phone) with different css and template files for each type. It may sound overly complicated but it is easier than trying to build a one show fits all solution.

Most businesses know that their websites have to be specially configured to look presentable on a mobile phone. However, the companies that do not optimize their web pages will suffer greatly because viewers do not get a good viewing experience. This is a basic rule of mobile martketing.

This is one of the most incredible blogs Ive read in a very long time. The amount of information in here is stunning, like you practically wrote the book on the subject. Your blog is great for anyone who wants to understand this subject more. Great stuff; please keep it up!

Think you should put name and date on the PDF, so it has more value as a document and we can use/cite/quote it on academic papers. Thanks.

Is there an updated version of this white paper? Also I'm not able to download the pdf, please advise.
Thanks!

Thanks for this great book. It was interesting for me to look over the best mobile websites in the world. I think that it is no need in showing worst of them, because there are thousand, even millions of creepy mobile websites. I hope that this platform will keep growing and after few years we will not feel any difference between mobile and between normal websites. Thanks for the great book one more time!

Very generous of you to share his priceless information, this is exactly what I was looking for all over the internet, and here it is all in one convenient package. I can't thank you enough.

So true! The onslaught of mobile web is unbelievable to most in the industry. The issue I see brewing is that many consumers do not know how to use their available resources effectively and therefore miss out on the many available applications, or sometimes, misuse and therefore it is frustrating and ineffective. Service solutions such as what you are providing is at a minimum a good solution, however, I would like to see a great emphasis directed towards open chat with technicians and client services.

Now it all depends on what phone you have. If you have an iphone, then you won't be able to stream anything with Flash. The Droid can do this, and I hear it's all around better than the iphone. We've come a long way with our cell phones, and we aren't even close to being done.

It was a source of disappointment and shiocking for me to not seeing many great mobile sites here like Netvibes and AdAge.Scheduler.There are many things which i believe are missing from this list of ebook.
Mnay great Email sorces like Hotmail and yahoo are also missing .
May be they part of next list

After years of anticipation, all the pieces are finally falling into place. The devices, networks, users and brands are all on the same page…and it’s about 128 x 160 pixels (and growing).

Great info and thanks for the download.

Mobile web industry will surely remain in market as there is alot more to come. Android is my favorite mobile OS. With their network of freelance developers and the ease of bringing new apps to market, I think they can seriously challenge the phone platform

Hi. I think you should put name and date on the PDF, so it has more value as a document and we can use/cite/quote it on academic papers. There's no author name, neither creation date. I think it is news, from 2008, but should have a date on the document. Congratulations for the excellent paper. Best!

The mobile web and the amount of mobile registrations are increasing day by day todays registrations stand at 963,967 compared to 958,145 a month ago, thats 5842 new registrations in this current financial climate. Not bad for an alledged failed tld.

Thanks a lot as sharing information on mobile wap i would really like to activate mobile wap service in my mobile can any one help me.

Thanks a lot as sharing information on mobile wap i would realy like to activate mobile wap service in my mobile can any one help me out plz.

Mobile web industry will surely remain in market as there is alot more to come. Android is my favorite mobile OS. With their network of freelance developers and the ease of bringing new apps to market, I think they can seriously challenge the phone platform.

hello,
Mobile Web as an industry is just growing and not only that it is inorganic growth. Todays consumer wants everything on fingertips and this what really enables it.
It is reaching the critical mass and makes it necessary for the webmasters to have a mobile version of their websites.
I am sure this Ebook will be of great use, thanks for the post..

I think that you will see a lot more effort put into mobile sites, because soon, these big computers will be a thing of the past, and you will be able to do everything on a mobile or hand held device. I think that list was pretty bad, and I ope to see a more broad audience, and some credit given to those that deserve it.

Well there are only good things about mobile web apart from the security breaches, I would say..

While I appreciate anyone that actually takes the time to put out an ebook on user interface design and offer it up for free, I would really like some more discussion on what the so called sinners could have done better. It's not that hard to create a mock up of what the ideal interface for one of these failing sites should look like. Nonetheless, it makes its point clear and there are many overlapping characteristics seen in a lot of the winner sites that I'll try to emulate myself in future designs. Good tips on usability, I appreciate the work put into this. Thanks.

Yes, me too I will start a mobile version of my site, not sure where to start.

Prashant, the answer to your question is "Whichever you're most proficient in". The languages may not be equal but their capabilities are very similar. As code in each of those three languages remains completely hidden from the user agent (meaning it remains on the server and is inaccessible to the client), any mobile page you create in one will be reproducible using the others.
The speed difference between each of them is negligible, too. Theoretically you could write a hypertext preprocessor entirely in assembler or C, compile it as an extension to a webserver and run it. It would produce your web pages blisteringly fast - and yet people don't do this, no, they use languages like Ruby and Python instead. Yes, they use interpreted and runtime-compiled languages instead of compiled ones.

My point in speed? The execution speed of the language should not be a consideration. If it was, websites would be compiled as webserver extensions. The bigger cost in speed is not from the language itself but from idiot programmers (like me) who simply write stupid code. A good script in a slow language will be faster than a bad program in a fast language.

The best way to avoid writing inefficient and dangerous code is not to optimize constantly (as this makes it unmaintainable and impossible to debug, eventually reversing the positive effect) - it's to write your code in a language in which you are proficient, and to use a highly reflective development model.

Your target audience (mobile devices) can absolutely not affect your choice of server-side programming language.

HOWEVER; your choice of markup, style and client-side scripting languages is critical. These will slow down the experience and even completely break it for users. I don't know much about this but I recommend:
- XHTML with content-type negotiation
- CSS 2.1
- Unobtrusive javascript, and only if you REALLY NEED it
- Jpg for photos
- gif for animation
- png if you need true colour plus transparency (unlikely)

AVOID:
- client-side Java
- flash (or use unobtrusive flash)
- most javascript effects
- obrusive SVG (even if the device can render it correctly, many mobile providers repurpose pages. This breaks a lot of content, especially XML such as SVG)
- heavy (filesize) content
- big (screen dimensions) content
- pixel sizing, fixed widths (try resizing your desktop browser if you must use one)
- testing in internet explorer, especially if using content negotiation
- animation of any kind. many devices can handle it now but even on my nice symbian handset there is a constant shortage of RAM. all animations are good for is annoying people, eating RAM, and eating CPU time - IF they even display correctly.
- fixed positioning. Just trust me on this one.

DO:
- validate your stuff after EVERY changeset
- use SCM such as subversion (even if you use someone else's CMS)
- use an existing CMS if it suits
- download the noscript, web developer toolbar, and firebug extensions for firefox as they will help majorly for testing and debugging
- look out for a gateway or repurposing service which is designed to "process the full web fr mobile use" as the reduced pages it serves you will be a key tool for guessing at how pages might be displayed in unknown mobile browsers and on unknown providers. I used to use one on my desktop computer.

REMEMBER:
- Do pages have to look the same in every browser? NO!

Some of the biggest names on the web with the worst mobile sites - shame on them! Why bother to create a mobile site in the first place if you don't intend giving the consumers the best experience? !

If the site mobilate.mobi was more well known I'm sure it would be on the list of the best.
mobilate.mobi is the mobile version of Google Translate (mobilate = mobile translate).

I like the mobile web directory http://mobile-sites-directory.com and their mobile version http://m-dir.mobi. It's well structured, has different interesting categories like What's Cool, Most Popular, and Must Have. Their search engine seems to work well, too.

...great and informative dialogue between Nadir & Amy, Im waiting for the former's response ... Iv officially learnt more from thier comments tham my course!

...as for iPhone haters, hate on, your lip service is giving us more hits ... but beyond that raspberry, Iv waited long & patiently with my Palm, having bought each of their flagship models,I 'upgraded' to & appreciate the iPhone3G, despite its unacceptable 'teething' issues (cut&paste,info searchability,bluetooth communication,camera(zoom&recording),tab key) ... Im holding my breath for a firmware update to fix all these ... wishing all a very merry festive season & a great 2009 ...SAFE!!!

Hi,

I am planning to develop a website for mobile but i do not know which language so that it can be access by all major phones (browsers) and can be access fast. Shall i go for JAVA,PHP or ASP ? please help.

Hi. I think you should put name and date on the PDF, so it has more value as a document and we can use/cite/quote it on academic papers. There's no author name, neither creation date. I think it is news, from 2008, but should have a date on the document. Congratulations for the excellent paper. Best!

It's amazing all the lip service given to the iPhone, and certainly Android will be right behind. While these devices have created a huge buzz in the industry, they represent a very small penetration. Why limit your marketing scope to less than 3% of the total phones in use? What about the 100,000,000 plus web-enabled Katanas, Razors, Samsung & LG flips? While much more basic, these can also be tools in the hands of marketers, capable of downloading brand specific applications. You just have to give the audience a good reason to do so, more than just the ‘Cool Factor’ of the iPhone. How many of the millions of apps downloaded to iPhones will still be used on a daily basis come January…other than at cocktail parties or as office meeting diversions? Now, an app from your bank, favorite clothing store chain, preferred casino, those will be opened on a weekly, if not daily, basis long into the future. And with the Holy Grail of true location based message delivery (see www.acuitymobile.com) within the grasp of marketers, brands can personalize messages, content and offers and deliver it to my device at the time and place I am most likely to want it!

Interesting report. However, all the sites seem to look very similar. It would be interesting to see a some successful sites that looked different.

I was very disappointed not to see many great mobile web sites on the ebook. From the mobile versions of AdAge and Engadget to Netvibes and the amazingly useful DIRECTV's Mobile DVR Scheduler, you definitely missed a lot of great functionality and a lot of great content. I didn't even see Hotmail or other email providers on the list... Hmm... Maybe next time

The iPhone is a nice device. However, the stark reality is that the current market share is less than 1.5%, the cost remains prohibitive and the majority of mobile phone users barely know how to send a text message or use their camera phone. When the iPhone is unleashed from the jaws of ATT (at least here in the US) there may be more significant traction; and don't forget that the iPhone is experiencing growing pains and difficulties penetrating Asian markets. I use a Nokia N95 8GB (which I won), and it is a shame they are not sold here in the US, many colleagues thinks it's a very cool phone when I do my hallway demos.

Sadir, you’re very right in that the TLD or zone file entry is not the whole solution to mobile search. But it does serve as your entry ticket. In other words, it’s the ante but not the full bet. The zone file entry means that you’re considered for the crawl whereas what you do with SEO impacts your positioning after you’ve been considered. Our best practice recommendations are about mobile site “findability” – one of the key challenges for any mobile site. As you know, mobile search has some fundamental differences from PC search and SEO. Firstly, the mobile web is very poorly linked. Because of their limited real estate, most mobile sites don’t consume highly valuable space with links. Auto-detection is another complicating factor for site crawlers. But our recommendations for what is a complicated issue are simple:

1. Use your .mobi for two reasons. Firstly, you will get that unique zone file entry to make sure you’re considered and included in search. Secondly, it provides for a short and easy name for users to recognize and differentiate from your PC site. It’s simply more consumer-friendly.

2. Work mobile SEO! Make sure that you have all of the popular search engine site maps and that your relevant keywords are there.

3. Use auto-detection. Most people will go for the name that they know and that might be a .com, a .co.uk, a .de, a .org, a .net, or some other TLD. Auto-detection helps satisfy their need to do this. It is one of the reasons that dotMobi provides DeviceAtlas – it will help you quickly and painlessly perform auto-detection.

4. Provide a mechanism for users to easily switch between the PC and mobile versions. Links or icons are great examples of these mechanisms and provides the consumer with choice if they’ve found one version and intended to find the other. mobiForge provides switching icons for free download at http://www.mobiforge.com/designers/page/mobile-and-desktop-switching-ico...

5. Finally, in addition to .mobi, it makes sense to cover your bases with other popular mobile naming conventions. Again, if someone goes to the pain of typing it into an address bar, you will want to satisfy their request. The ones that you should cover based upon popularity are wap., mobile., and m. Use your .mobi as your primary site and make sure these other designations redirect to that content. Owning a .mobi address is typically around $10 per year and an inexpensive entry ticket to mobile findability.

Hope this clarifies.

Hi Amy, thanks for your reply. I've been doing SEO for almost 4 years now, and it's the first time I hear such a statement ("Search engines start their crawls with the Internet Zone Files").

Search engines are using links to find new websites and build their index, not registrars' databases. I think you're wrong when associating TLDs or URLs with crawling and indexing. Your mobile site will be indexed regardless of your URL format or TLD, GoogleBot Mobile will decide if your site is mobile based on your page size, your doctype, etc, but not your URL. And they're right to do that, because a .mobi site is not more or less relevant than site.com or site.com/m or m.site.com or whatever. What matters is content and links.

I'm OK when dotMobi says that .mobi can help end-users find mobile sites more easily (though I would love to see how many people have actually tried to type directly anybrand.mobi to see if they had a mobile site). But you're wrong when saying that .mobi will help your Mobile SEO efforts because clearly it's not the case.

Thanks for your comment, Nadir. Search engines start their crawls with the Internet Zone Files. Each site only gets one entry and if you're using ".com" or ".co.uk", chances are your site has already been indexed for your desktop homepage. So, if you're using something like m.site.com for your mobile site, search engines may not find your site and recognize it as mobile content. However using a .mobi is the first way to indicate to search engines that your site is made-for-mobile. We recommend that you maximize your "findability" but using all points of entry for mobile and that your .mobi should be your primary mobile site address for clarity to the user and of course for the reason I outlined above. For more information on mobile SEO, please read our Mobile SEO Best Practices paper at http://mobithinking.com/best-practices/mobile-seo-best-practices. Oh, and google.mobi works great :)

Thanks,
Amy

Hello,

I've just read the report and I did find a few surprising statements IMO, so maybe you can explain what is said on page 18:

"Shameless plug: .mobi is the only domain name that also gets a listing in the Internet Zone Files, so your site is more easily found by search engines."

I don't see how just having a TLD (in this case .mobi) can help you get indexed in mobile search engines. Or maybe you're talking about www.find.mobi (owned by mTLD) ? If yes, then how come www.google.mobi doesn't even come up when I search for "google" http://find.mobi/search?q=google&s=8&cat=web

I think people need some clarification on this point as just having your .mobi clearly won't change anything in your mobile search indexing.

Thank you

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