The mobile web continues to grow, with reports over Christmas showing mobile commerce account for 37% of all online retail sales

Brands are improving the mobile experience for users. Heck, we’ve even launched a responsive website

However, there are still many pitfalls for mobile internet users. 

Here, I’ve rounded up some of the UX problems I’ve encountered recently… 

Mobile sites that don’t allow you to view the desktop site

Until your mobile-optimised site works perfectly and contains all the features of the desktop version I think there should always be the option to access the main site.

Sites that switch back to desktop without warning

Three’s site is mobile optimised, but if you select an option from the help menu, you’re back to a desktop page. 

From here:

To here: 

It’s jarring for users, and seems very odd for a mobile phone company not to optimise for the devices it sells. 

Popups

Popups are bad on most occasions, but are especially unwelcome on a small mobile screen. They obscure the content and are often hard to close, with a tiny ‘x’ in the corner. 

Here, Currys serves me a popup right in the middle of the checkout process. I can’t think of a worse time to ask customers to complete a survey. 

Lack of payment options

Payments remain one of the biggest barriers to mobile commerce. Users currently have the following options: 

  • Enter credit or debit card details manually (can be tiresome, even on a well optimised site). 
  • Use saved payment and address details from previous purchases. This is one of the reasons for Amazon’s success on mobile. 
  • Use an alternative payment option like PayPal. This way, users need only enter an email address and password. 

Here, Wiggle and Threadless both offer PayPal as an alternative to card payments: 

 

Until a better solution arrives, then retailers would be wise to provide options like PayPal to make it easier for users. 

Videos that won’t play

It may be a blessing in disguise, but this ’24 hour music video’ from Pharrell Williams won’t play on mobile. 

Missing features

There was a tendency for companies, which is less prevalent now, to produce stripped down versions of the desktop site for mobile. 

This meant that mobile users could not access and use the same range of features or products as desktop users. 

Tiny links

Links on mobiles sites, especially calls to action, should be easily visible and easy to click. They should also be enough space between them to avoid accidental clicks. 

Unfortunately it’s still all too common for sites to think they can make do with fiddly little links and buttons that are impossible to press and incredibly frustrating, as in this example from Tesco. 

 

Retailers with no mobile site at all

Yes, I’m looking at you Hamleys.

It’s one of the most famous toy brands in the world, but has no mobile site (the desktop site isn’t great either). 

It’s hard to imagine the thinking behind Hamley’s online strategy, but at the moment it is failing to make the most of digital. 

Slow loading pages

Page load speed is crucial in ecommerce, and if anything it’s probably more important in mobile commerce as people often turn to their phones when they’re distracted or looking to kill time, so they don’t want to wait around for ages while pages load.

And though sites can do little about unreliable 3G connections they can easily take action to limit their page sizes and strip out any unnecessary content or features.

Though not an ecommerce site, Facebook’s app used to be one of the most painfully slow mobile experiences around, though Thomas Cook’s site beats it hands down.

The loading ‘circle’ is an all too familiar site at times. 

         

Poor store finders

A good store finder is a very useful feature on a mobile site, yet they can often be very frustrating to use. 

I found this when trying to check the Sunday opening hours of my nearest Costa recently.

I had to struggle with the map to locate it, and then tapping the map pin, unlike on the main site, failed to open up details about it. 

As a consequence, I didn’t bother going. I’m sure my not buying a Cappuccino won’t affect Costa’s share price too much, but these little details matter to users. 

Here, David Moth explains how sites should be doing this, with some good examples. 

Unreadable/tiny fonts

Some sites forget about making text easy to read on smaller mobile screens. 

Compare the font size on Dick’s Sporting Goods to that on Skinny Ties. On the former, you have to work hard to read product details, on the latter it’s nice and easy. 

          

Too many errors

The Virgin TV Anywhere app is very useful, when it works. You can see TV schedules and, most usefully, set the Tivo box to record programmes while you’re out. 

The problem is that, at least 25% of the time you experience errors which prevent you from using the app. 

Sometimes you can’t login at all, sometimes the connection vanishes even when you’re on wi-fi, and other times the schedule information is blank. 

 

‘Download app’ pop ups

I understand the sites want to promote their apps, but pushing them in your face as soon as you load the mobile site is too much. 

Here are two such heinous examples from Expedia and Gumtree: 

       

Google recently announced that is clamping down on this sort of thing, so sites that continue to use such tactics will find rankings affected. 

Faulty redirects 

A faulty redirect is when a desktop URL sends users to the incorrect or irrelevant page on the mobile site, often the homepage when users are actually looking for a product or some other page.

Here’s an example from NBC (via WTFmobile web):

This is an interruption to the user journey, it’s irritating to the user and may cause them to abandon the site. Therefore, it benefits site owner and user to avoid this error. 

Menus that don’t close easily

I don’t like it when you’re presented with a scrollable menu, but then when you tap your choice you then have to hit the ‘x’. It seems counterintuitive. 

I’ve seen the same thing elsewhere except with the word ‘done’ instead. 

Non-optimised landing pages

I think we’re getting to the point that, thanks to the growth of mobile internet use, and factors such as emails being opened on mobile, all landing pages should be mobile friendly. 

However, many ads which are used outdoors or otherwise targeted at mobile users fail to make landing pages mobile friendly. 

This is quite often the case with QR codes, which are of course designed to be scanned with smartphones. 

Here’s an example from a Green Festival ad: 

All very well so far, but this is the page it takes you to. Why ask mobile users to respond to your ads if you’re going to provide such a poor experience? 

Directing mobile users to non-existent pages

American Airlines, though it has optimised the rest of its site, hasn’t gotten around to its help pages. So mobile users get this message. 

Strict postcode validation

Cath Kidston has optimised for mobile since we last wrote about it, but there are a couple of serious flaws with the checkout forms. 

The main one is postcode validation. I initially entered my postcode in lower case without space, but this triggered the following error message: 

The error message doesn’t tell me what I’ve done wrong or how to fix it.

So it’s guesswork. If I hadn’t been aware of this issue, i’d have assumed the checkout was broken in some way. 

Then I entered the postcode in upper case, but had the same problem, despite the green tick suggesting I’d done it ‘correctly’. 

It finally worked when I entered the postcode in upper case with a space in the middle. There are two points here: 

  • If sites want users to enter details in a certain way, they should make it clear. 
  • The vast majority of ecommerce sites allow users to enter postcodes with or without spaces. This is what Cath Kidston should do. 

Bad checkouts

Payment can be a massive barrier to mobile commerce, and poorly designed checkouts can be a real conversion killer. 

Currys has a decent responsive site, and all through the product selection and checkout, it is mobile friendly. 

However, on the final payment page, you’re suddenly switched back to the desktop site to enter your payment details. 

       

This is jarring for the user, and makes it more difficult to complete the payment. It’s also something Currys should fix as a matter of urgency. 

Patronising messages for mobile users

This is quite something. This design agency creates websites, just not mobile ones it seems. 

Not having a mobile site may not be ideal, and an odd choice for such a business, but it’s the tone of this message that is likely to deter users. Not a real screen eh? 

(HT: @psebborn).

No click-to-call

Google’s Mobile Movement Study found that 61% of mobile users call after a local business search, so why not make it easy for them?

Mobile searchers by definition have a phone in their hand, so by adding a click-to-call button you are increasing the likelihood of them getting in touch with you.

Based on my own mobile browsing habits, it’s likely that they are searching for contact details anyway. So consider including a large CTA that simply says ‘Call now’, or a phone number with a clickable hyperlink.

Bupa and London restaurant Volupte both have decent click-to-call buttons. Volupte’s is more obvious though, and Bupa could perhaps use a different coloured font to draw attention to the CTA.

     

PDF menus on restaurant sites

Restaurants need to up their game when it comes to mobile, as consumers are twice as likely to use mobile than desktop as a source of information about where to eat.

Indeed, Christopher Ratcliff reviewed some of the nation’s most popular restaurants for their mobile sites, and several were found wanting. 

One common issue is he presentation of menus. People like to see what’s on the menu, what the prices are like etc.

Possibly the worst way to present this information is in PDF form. It takes time to load, and is a real pain to read on mobile. 

Here are two examples from Meatliquor and Big Easy: 

  

Awful ad formats

The Forbes interstitial with its quote of the day plus ad is bad enough on desktop, on mobile it’s infuriating. 

Here, this is combined with a download app ad on the next page: 

 

Which features on mobile sites (or lack of) deter you from using them? Let us know below…