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The mobile web is still a relatively new and rapidly developing medium, but that doesn’t excuse some of the awful user experience issues we’re exposed to on a daily basis.

My job requires me to spend a lot of time browsing mobile sites so I am probably exposed to these problems more than the average consumer. That doesn’t make them any less annoying though. 

So to try and raise awareness of these UX crimes and I’ve compiled a list of 12 problems that I’d love to see the back of.

Let me know of any I've missed off in the comments section.

And yes, Econsultancy doesn’t have a mobile site. We’re working on it...

Suddenly switching to a desktop site

There’s nothing quite as jarring as cruising through a mobile site only to be suddenly directed to a desktop site.

Most sites manage to avoid this nowadays, but there are still some high profile culprits. Thomas Cook recently launched a mobile site that suffers from a number of UX problems, not least that after navigating its painfully slow product pages you are then redirected to a desktop site to make a booking.

Similarly, Currys launched a snazzy new responsive site towards the end of last year, but on the very last page of the checkout it reverts to desktop mode.

Tiny CTAs

You’ve search around and found your item, now you want to go ahead and buy it, so all the site requires is a nice, big ‘Buy Now’ button.

Unfortunately it’s still all too common for sites to think they can make do with fiddly little buttons that are impossible to press and incredibly frustrating.

United PixelWorkers gets it right with a big ‘Add to cart’ CTA, although the product size options could be slightly larger. However Tesco’s tiny efforts leave a lot to be desired.


Denying me use of the back button

This is one of my main bugbears on mobile, as if a site’s navigation isn’t compatible with your handset’s back button then it often results in you being booted off the site entirely.

While ASOS does a lot right when it comes to mobile commerce, its site cannot cope with the back button on my Samsung, which makes navigation a nightmare.

Instant popups

I understand that having created an app, sites want to take every opportunity to get people to download it.

However there has to be a better way than jamming a popup in the face of every mobile visitor. If you have a mobile site then why not just let people use it, unless you’ve something to be ashamed of?

We’ve previously pointed out several sites that break this cardinal rule, but Expedia and Gumtree are two of the worst offenders.


Text links

Perhaps worse than tiny CTAs are text links. They are fine on a desktop site but unless you use a massive font then they simply don’t work on mobile.

Check out Gucci’s swanky mobile site, with its impossible-to-click hyperlinks.


Tiny text fields

This really fits under the same category as having miniature CTAs, but the use of tiny text fields is incredibly annoying on mobile sites.

Everything on the screen needs to be clickable with a thumb, though some sites seem to think this only applies to CTAs.

If you compare the different between Newegg and New Look, it’s obvious which is the most user-friendly...


Slow pages

Speed is of the essence 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 shoddy 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 new site beats it hands down.


Unreadable fonts

If you’re trying to lure a customer into making a purchase then they need to be able to read the product information on-screen.

Compare the font size on Dick’s Sporting Goods to that on Skinny Ties. It’s obvious which one provides the superior mobile shopping experience...


Unresponsive buttons

Unresponsive buttons are on par with tiny CTAs when it comes to ruining the user experience. And by unresponsive I don’t mean buttons that don’t alter to fit your screen size, I mean ones that don’t do anything when you press them.

EasyJet recently launched a wonderful new mobile site, but it’s let down by the fact that on several of the screens you have to press buttons three or four times before anything actually happens. And then there's Thomas Cook of course...

Sending desktop links in a text message

One of the best things about being on Orange is all the delicious text spam you receive.

Luckily, even if I cared about the T&Cs for its Bright Stuff service I couldn’t read them anyway as the link included in this text message goes to a desktop site.


Responsive sites that aren’t responsive

I’m totally supportive of anyone who has built a responsive site and feel it’s definitely the future of web design, but that doesn’t alter the fact that when it’s done badly it impacts the user experience.

Though this problem has since been rectified, when Pocket-Lint first launched its responsive site you had to scroll all over the place to view the content.

Top marks to them for fixing it now.


Videos that don’t play on mobile

Whether it’s because it uses Flash or the content provider hasn’t made it available on mobile, clicking on a video only to be rejected is incredibly frustrating.

Come on man, I just want to get me some Diana Ross...


(Image credit WTF Mobile Web)

David Moth

Published 6 June, 2013 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

1687 more posts from this author

Comments (32)

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LJ Symonds

Small unusable form fields are top on my list many a website fails to cover this issue we spent a lot of time getting this working well on our responsive website!

over 3 years ago


Raydon Marketing

This is indeed a very good guide. We have worked with too many webmasters who had extensive desktop and 90s and early 2000s web 1 experience basically who had such a hard time understanding our frustration with things like load speed and badly sized buttons or worse drop down menus....

I also like the visual examples you provided. We have shared this article with all those aforementioned third party web developers that we are forced to work with due to client preference.

Some additions that can make the list to 14:

13. The thing that i completely do not understand is putting an actual QR code inside of a mobile app or web app page... makes no sense as those things are not meant to be on a mobile screen to be seen by the user, they are meant to be on anywhere else to be scanned by a mobile device. I do not even get this point when people put it on any desktop website either, it's like they never test scan it to know how dumb-founded and hard is the process of scanning a close up with a mobile device on any monitor. Close up pixels and the refresh rate make it nearly impossible to scan a code displayed on most digital screens.

14. QR codes that end up on non-mobile friendly destinations. that is absolutely retarded.

over 3 years ago



I personally do not like responsive web pages that take ages to scroll down. Except when you are reading a news article perhaps resizing the desktop version of a homepage is not worth it.

over 3 years ago


Access iQ

With the aging population and increases with disabilities or impairments that go along with age, mobile sites need to be accessible.

Why offer video content without captions if 50% of your audience has hearing difficulty?
Why use pastel colours or only use colour to signify a change in state when a large portion of the population won't be able to perceive or distinguish a form error that is only highlighted in red?

Why use CAPTCHA's at all (like the one I had to try and complete to complete this form) because they're notoriously inaccessible!

over 3 years ago

Andrew Stuart

Andrew Stuart, Marketing Officer at International Football School

Great read many thanks.
Do we have any examples of good mobile experiences ?

@ Evelyn Tan I hope your marketing is a little better than hanging around the the comment box!

over 3 years ago

Luke Brason

Luke Brason, Head of User Experience at Grass Roots

Great article David. My personal preference (rightly or wrongly) is to think about the mobile interface before I think about a desktop interface on the basis that scaling down never works (as the above illustrates). In my experience I find it easier to start small and scale-up.

In terms of a mobile exemplars - I find the BBC site and other news sites like the Guardian and the Telegraph are pretty solid in terms of a good mobile UX. eBay and TK Maxx, in my opinion, are sound mobile commerce benchmarks.

over 3 years ago

David Moth

David Moth, Editor & Head of Social at EconsultancyStaff

Thanks for your comments everyone.

@Andrew, Amazon's mobile site and app are obvious examples, plus there's a lot to like about H&M's mobile app. B&Q Club is also worth looking at for an example of a simple but well-designed app

Away from the retail sector, Natwest's banking app has a really simple design but is incredibly useful for checking your balance and transferring money. And Gov.uk is a brilliant example of simple but effective mobile design.

Finally, I deleted Evelyn's comment as I didn't think it added much to the conversation ;)

over 3 years ago



Great overview of the UX issues we face on mobile devices. The Gucci site wastes alot of potential with their text links. Why not make the article image clickable rather than just the text link?

Related to the point on Instant Popups - another bugbear is when you innocently click a link on a mobile using an iPhone/iPad and the browser closes to open the app store.

over 3 years ago



@Access iQ quite agree; the skinny ties site does have bigger fonts, but for some reason they've decided to have white text on a pale background. Its quite hard to see, even for me with relatively good sight. Even harder if you're outside. Much harder or impossible for anyone with sight issues.

Also, CAPTCHAS! yeah, "stop the spam" - why do they put the onus on the users to stop the spam? Why make it my problem?

Then radio and check buttons on iPhones, where clicking the label text doesn't work (you have to add a onclick="" to 'activate' this functionality)

But a cool artical. Its baffling why so many sites are so bad.

over 3 years ago


Karl Harris

The Instant Popups are a necessity to the perceived success of the campaign. If a company has spent a large sum of money designing an application and then only receives 10 downloads in the first week, then this would be deemed a flop.

Customer experience online is willingly sabotaged to promote these apps.

Personally I don't think apps have any longevity.

Why would you use a shopping app that requires an internet connection to use anyway when the mobile site offers the same or better experience without taking any space up on your phone and add a simple icon on your home screen.

Using responsive design, and doing it well, is a better long term investment that will pay dividends.
Back this up with a tasteful promotion to add an Icon to your customers home screens and you have the benefits of an app without the expense.

over 3 years ago


Nick Imrie, Managing Director at WhatUsersDo

Great List David....

The videos that don't play on mobile get me every time particularly the ones from Inc magazine..... ;-(

over 3 years ago


Heather Ling

Great article! In response to one of the comments on QR codes, I disagree. I would put a QR code on a mobile site for the sole purpose (and described as such on the page) for the user to share that specific page easily and swiftly with a friend. Isn't ease of use of getting information what QR codes are all about? :) I fully test my QR codes to ensure QR code scanner readability so there's no problem with having one on a mobile page.

Also agree about Captcha's. They're horrendous - you can barely read what the words are to type in. I've lost count how many times I've not been able to complete a form for several tries due to illegibility of the Captcha's.

over 3 years ago

James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

Hi David,

Thanks for sharing.

Take a peek at Pinterest mobile site for a good way to promote the app without annoying pop-ups.

They use a simple banner that uses device detection to know which app to promote, so an app isn't flagged unless the device can use it.
You can continue to browse the m-site or download. Once downloaded, the site recognises this and then changes the banner CTA to encourage you to switch to the app from the m-site if you want.

I think it's a much better UX.


over 3 years ago

David Moth

David Moth, Editor & Head of Social at EconsultancyStaff

@James, sounds interesting, I'll take a look. And congratulations by the way!

over 3 years ago


Richard jones

Totally agree with this fantastic post ...

If you want to learn how to master mobile for your business we cover all the points raised here with out bespoke mweb and mcommece offering ...

We also have a 45 min workshop on mastering mobile so please get in touch if you would like to learn more



over 3 years ago



learn how to master mobile for your business we cover all the points

over 3 years ago



Writing about UX flaws on mobile sites on a site, which does not have a mobile version? Eh?

over 3 years ago


David Cain

Three more idiotic ones (which are thankfully fading):

- SEO your desktop site, but when Google finds me JUST the item, I arrive, card in hand, via my mobile, site decides "Oh, you must want to see our mobile site!" and takes me to the mobile home page, instead of the item I was trying to pay you for.

- if you offer a preference of mobile or desktop for a given device, forgetting it for the crime of hitting the back button, or visiting the home page. Don't pretend to let me choose then try and keep trying to jam one or the other down my throat. Washington Post used to do this each time you viewed an article, then returned to the front page. Was easier to stop using them as a news source.

- forgetting that I don't want to install your mobile app. Ever. I can answer this one once and forever for ALL mobile sites: "No. Why do you keep asking me?"

over 3 years ago


Ginny Cobbett, Digital Project Manager at Bupa UK

Following on from the app / mobile web decision. A personal bug-bear of mine is the complete lack of email marketing / mobile experience consideration. I have yet to find a brand that does this well. Consider:

Apparently you can get email on mobile phones now.

Following a link within an email on your mobile phone triggers your mobile browser - For example: I want to see a friend's new job on Linked In.

The site detects you are on a mobile. Fantastic, you must want our app. Well, actually, now you mention it, I already have your app, can I go to that now please? Sorry, no. The email we sent you only links to the web content. You must go through three seemingly pointless blank pop up screens to get to the app store so that it can tell you you have the app already first.

OK, fine. But can you remember next time I follow a link from your email that I have your app already? Sorry no. why don't you just use the app? Because the app is buried in a folder somewhere on screen 7 and email is where I get updates, actually.

I understand the technical limitations of what I expect to just happen. I just don't agree with them. Email as a medium is all too often considered separately from the user journey, where in practice its often the beginning and should be integrated as much as possible.

over 3 years ago


Emma Duke-Williams, Senior Lecturer at University of Portsmouth

Also, and this might be a particularly European issue, don't make the cookie banner so large that you can't see anything else - and you still you have to scroll round off the screen in order to find the "x" to close it ..

over 3 years ago



Really got value from this article. Thanks for taking the time!

over 3 years ago


bex tindle

Instant popups: LinkedIn is really bad for this - not just the first time I went to the site and said no thanks but still every time I follow a link from an email I've received from LinkedIn, AND despite the fact that I've downloaded the app to my phone and use it fairly regularly. It'd be great if following a link in an email I've received from LinkedIn would open the article or whatever in the app that I downloaded and set up instead of directing me to the mobile site! :/

over 3 years ago


bex tindle

And a flaw to add... This is quite a bad one. The use of drop down boxes / option controls on a touch screen can cause interaction problems because both the virtual keyboard and the drop down box open and try to fill the whole or a substantial part of the screen causing a conflict that sometimes renders interaction with either very difficult or impossible and at best it's a very confusing experience.

A great example of a lack of testing of any kind (QA or user) on touch screens when interaction has been designed with desktop in mind. This just doesn't need to happen! :/

over 3 years ago


James Coltham

This is a really good article. I work with the team who carry out the annual survey of UK council websites. For the last one, we looked more at how the sites performed on mobile - many of your points cropped up time and time again.

I spoke about our findings at an event last month - summary here: http://www.prettysimple.co.uk/blog/?p=3715

over 3 years ago


Benjamin Charity

This list actually has very little to do with the mobile web. These are just basic UX items.

Would a desktop site with unreadable fonts be ok? Do we not care about the use of a back button on the desktop? Or videos that don't play?

And my favorite quote: "...but that doesn’t alter the fact that when it’s done badly it impacts the user experience." I would love some examples of something done badly that has no effect on user experience.

I get the feeling that we all just slap 'mobile' in front of any article on UX/UI/etc to drive traffic since it's the 'hot' thing right now. This article could have been aptly named "12 Usability Flaws that are Spoiling the Web".

over 3 years ago


Todd V

Comments that are repeated really get to me. Perfect example is the first poster of comments for this article.
I mean, your pc is slow....wait for it buddy. Premature clickulation is just so uncool.

over 3 years ago


Ana Jenkins

Nothing makes me madder than "mobile-optimised sites" that completely forbid you to have the whole customer experience.

For example, I'm a priority club member of the intercontinental hotel group, and every now and again want to check their new member-only offers. It's simply impossible to do that on mobile, though - you open the correct URL, which is supposed to go straight to member offers, and VOILA, you are automatically taken to the "mobile optimised" e-booking site, without an option to access special offers or the desktop content.

over 3 years ago


Paul Seddon

I agree with all those points, and over the last few months we've tried to address many of them at Gumtree with a new mobile web site. Work in progress but I think we're in better shape, especially now the annoying interstitial has gone.


over 3 years ago



Toolbar like fade in's which cause the whole site to move as they fade in and out.

over 3 years ago



I am really curious as to what Evelyn Tans comment was now!

Quora is the one that annoys me the most, great service but I won't install an app unless I really have to! and I don't use it enough to justify being forced into it ...

There are so many quick wins that I can't believe no one does including input type="email" to change the keyboard ...

I love QR codes, but I have yet to see a really successful campaign, and I have realised recently for months I've not had a barcode scanner installed ...

over 3 years ago


SEO The Usability People, VP User Experience at The Usability People

Dont forget about QR codes that don't lead to a mobile optimized site!

See our blog about it:


over 3 years ago


Murray Cowell, Managing Partner at Inbox Income

My pet hate is sites that force users to view the mobile site on a mobile device, with no option to switch to the desktop version.

This means that links in emails or bookmarks that refer to the desktop site cannot be used. The result is very frustrating for the user.

almost 3 years ago

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