Mobile is not Diet Desktop

If it wasn’t for the fact that typing blogs on a phone is obnoxiously difficult, I would probably be a mobile-only user. I do everything on my phone: check Facebook, watch YouTube videos, order pizza, you know, the important things in life. And I’m not the only one. 31% of Americans, either by choice or obligation, consider themselves mobile mostly users that primarily check the Internet on their mobile devices. In her book, Content Strategy for Mobile, Karen McGrane identifies these mobile only users and explains why trying to pass off

While some people, like me, are mobile mostly users for convenience, others are mobile mostly users because they have to be. One-third of the people who consider themselves mobile mostly users do not have a desktop computer readily available to them. Half of minority households (specifically African American and Hispanic) do not have Internet access at home. 60% of people with low incomes and 88% of people with a lower-than-high-school education do not have at-home Internet access either.

That is, unless they have a smartphone, which over half of Americans do (54.9% to be exact, and that number has probably grown in the time between me posting this and you reading it). Many lower-income, lower-education individuals are buying smartphones in order to access the web and are getting a mobile-only look at the web.

So if many people are using smartphones as their primary or even only device, why are so many companies taking a diet desktop approach to their mobile sites? Many companies’ mobile sites are just watered-down versions of their desktop sites, taking out all the flavor and offering a barely passible substitute. Most diet foods can’t get away with that, yet companies still think they can with mobile sites.

Because over 10% of the US population is only using mobile to access the Internet, the mobile site can’t be ignored. It’s the same as giving nine people a job application and giving the tenth person a map that lead to the location of a polaroid picture of the job application. That’s essentially what many mobile sites do: they reduce the information so much that many users end up looking for the “desktop view” option which isn’t built to accommodate those mobile users.

As McGrane puts it: you can’t call yourself an equal opportunity employer if you aren’t offering content on a platform that minorities and low income, uneducated individuals cannot access. You can’t say you’re fulfilling your civic duty by informing all citizens if 10% of your users can’t see it. Mobile isn’t diet desktop. You can’t ignore it, and you can’t call it a luxury when one out of every ten users considers it necessary.

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