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SEOigloo

Should Mobile And Desktop Content Be Identical?

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Hey Great Cre8ers!

 

I'd like to start a discussion here and hope you can weigh in if you've got something to share.

 

I'm developing my first fully fleshed out mobile version of a new website (it belongs to me - not a client project). The site is selling several services and the homepage and service pages on the desktop version are quite thorough and lengthy (hey - it's me!). The desktop site is pretty much done, and for the last week or so, we've been working on the mobile site.

 

This work has lead me to ponder whether mobile users actually want to see the same length of copy that desktop users do. Obviously, formatting changes are intuitive, due to the different device being used, but what about the actual meat of the site itself? Should it be abbreviated, fully rewritten, published in full?

 

What do you think?

 

I also want to take a moment to plug the job our Barry Schwartz's rustybrick.com team has done on their mobile site. I have looked at the mobile site of pretty much every industry smart person I could think of and Barry's takes the cake, as far as I'm concerned. Barry...I must confess, we are riffing on your cool homepage on the site we're designing. I truly love the way you've used the shiny buttons to organize the pathways into the internal content. Brilliant...so easy to use. Inspiring and worth imitating.

Edited by SEOigloo

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This work has lead me to ponder whether mobile users actually want to see the same length of copy that desktop users do. Obviously, formatting changes are intuitive, due to the different device being used, but what about the actual meat of the site itself? Should it be abbreviated, fully rewritten, published in full?
I will preface my answer by saying that I am a relatively elderly desktop user who doesn't like new stuff. However, I think that the answer to your question will vary depending upon who you ask. Also, keep in mind that most people don't carefully or thoroughly read anything.

 

In my opinion you should give visitors the same content on mobile as you would on your primary site. If I am on your site and reading it carefully I would not want half of a loaf or a BLT without the B.

 

I think that it would be really frustrating to be reading about your products and know that I am not getting the bacon or the important details that will influence my buying decision.... and I don't want to journey to your other website and spend my time rereading just to glean those missing details. I think it would be rude to visitors to do that to them.

 

When I first saw the .mobi domains come out I thought that everyone needed to get one to republish their website. ("What a waste of staff hours!"... was my reaction.)

 

A few short months ago I got an iphone and have become a avid user. To my surprise I have spent quite a bit of money on books to read on it. I have no problem reading books on the device so why would I have a problem reading something from your website?

 

I visit lots of websites on my iphone. The New York Times and LA Times look exactly like what I see on my desktop and render fine on my iphone. Once you realized that you can resize the screen to column width for easy reading they are easy to use. Very few sites that I visit seem to be reformatted for my mobile device and I read them without any problems. A lot of my posts to SEOmoz Q&A are done from iphone.

 

A couple websites that do reformat on the iphone are.... today.com which delivers identical content but in big blocky format.... and CNN which delivers a small fraction of the normal homepage content and leaves me feeling cheated.

Edited by EGOL

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My sisters been reading books on the 2" screen of her blackberry (I don't have a smart phone), so I agree people can and do read long content. However, I think you can make things easier such as providing links to jump you down the page to appropriate sections or providing summaries with the option to access more detailed content. I wouldn't cut them off from it completely.

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I have always felt that the difference in screen real estate for a smart phone versus a desk top monitor (that keep increasing in size) means that you really should think carefully as to whether exactly the same content can work for both. I personally believe that it cannot work for both and that both deserve consideration, which may mean you end up with different content. That was the whole reasoning behind the staygolinks.com website, which I started on July 13, 2006. I have seen no reason to change that opinion.

 

I remember reading recently that all Google applications are now developed with the mobile user in mind rather than the desktop user. I guess that's why I often find Google pages somewhat empty on my desktop monitor. You might wish to consider whether you would make different choices if you assume you're developing the website for mobile users. I know CSS can do wonders in reconfiguring the content but I really think there are two different worlds here.

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Have you played with the new WordPress default theme? Re-size the browser window and you'll see that though at full size it's around 1000px wide, it has alternate layouts that kick in at 800px, 750px and 320px. Pretty cool... and gives an instant peek at how a whole site might feel smaller screens. Check the CSS - it's all in one stylesheet, style.css, nicely annotated.

 

Here's the Twenty Eleven demo site.

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Your replies are all so much appreciated!

 

Egol - I'm definitely with you on the concept of something like the NYT publishing everything in full. That definitely makes sense. Sounds like you would be a fan of the full content, even in the case of a service-oriented site. What about images? Do you want to see those in full, too? I mean images within the copy? They are so tiny on the mobile phone. Obviously, one can zone in, but if you place images in mobile as you do in a desktop (for instance, aligned side by side within the copy) the column for the copy becomes minute and the image is tiny, too.

 

Tam - That's a really good idea. Maybe a good format would be the opening pitch and then a list of jump links. I could really see that working on a long page!

 

Barry - I have been a little confused about the two worlds, myself, as I've worked to learn about this. So many major websites do not have different formatting. One scrolls around the pages instead of just being able to go down. I confess, I don't know if this is because the organization in question doesn't care enough about mobile yet, or if they know something I don't know...like users don't care if they have to scroll everywhere to see a page that's too wide.

 

Liz - No, I haven't played with that yet. Thanks for pointing it out. We're currently working with the Mobius theme. Some things about it have been good, but others have been odd.

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What about images? Do you want to see those in full, too?
On many sites and in many articles the images are as important, if not more important, than the text. I really like images.

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I don't think it's as simple as saying "mobile vs. desktop". We have many platforms, many operating systems, and many browsers to serve. The same content doesn't always work well on those platforms.

 

Like Donna I use WPTouch (free version) on my blogs but that only addresses one corner of a complex picture. I would like the content to be served and appreciated ubiquitously. We have to wait for the technology to catch up to that.

 

Still, I make choices in what I provide to my visitors that help to stretch my content's accessibility as much as possible. I only reluctantly adopt new ideas into my Web designs.

 

ON EDIT: I should admit that I have been converting sites to use Wordpress (from hand-tooled static HTML content) in part because of plugins like WPTouch that format the content for mobile.

Edited by Michael_Martinez

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Michael,

Thanks for your feedback. I'm actually nervous about how the site will look on platforms other than our Android phone. Could be a case for Website Hospital when we come to it, I think.

 

I definitely need to check out WP Touch. Maybe not for this project, but for something in the future!

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