I’ve been using a BlackBerry 8800 for a few months now. Mainly for access to my company’s e-mail and calendar, but also for IM and Web access. This is the first BlackBerry, or Smartphone for that matter, I’ve used, and I must say that I’m sold.
Having a mobile Web browser with me all the time, I find myself trying to look up movie reviews while I’m browsing videos at Blockbuster. Or trying to do a price comparison for something I see at a local retail store. Or trying to find (and reserve) a book at my local library, that someone just recommended in a conversation. I don’t want to wait until I get back to a computer to do these things, I want to do them in real-time, from where I am.
Notice I said “trying” in each case above. Nearly every time I try something like this, I come away frustrated and disappointed because the Web sites are barely usable (and sometimes not at all) on a mobile device.
Some sites do have mobile versions, but they’re often maintained as different sites with different URLs. For example, if I want to check my flight status with United, I’d expect to be able to go to www.united.com. But noooo, the mobile site is www.ua2go.com. Does the united.com site detect my mobile device, and redirect me there – noooo. Is there a link from the united.com site to the mobile site – nooo. The only way to get to the mobile site is to know the URL. Not the best user experience.
There seems to be a de facto standard that many sites use to denote their mobile version – substituting “m” for “www”. For example, m.yahoo.com, and m.google.com. How about m.aol.com? Nope, 404 error (page not found). <sigh>
On the other hand, AOL detects mobile devices at www.aol.com and redirects them to wap.aol.com/portal/. <sigh> So much for standards.
But these are essentially special cases. All too often the content I’m after (which is usually the result of a Google search) is not available on a mobile-friendly site. And I have to go through the pain of trying to navigate page layouts and site designs that didn’t consider mobile access in the slightest.
Am I ahead of the curve, wanting this level of mobile access? I don’t have any numbers to back this up, but I don’t think so. I see myself as a rather late adopter of the Mobile Web.
Site designers, you need to access your sites from a mobile device (I’m betting between BlackBerry, Treo, and iPhone, 95% of the market is covered). Feel the pain. Fix your sites.