Most of the UK’s newspapers now have mobile versions of their websites, but many could provide a better range of content and user experience.

Here are some best practice tips for mobile newspaper sites…

Auto direct to mobile site from search engines

Newspaper homepages can be pretty busy at times, which makes navigating them on a mobile, however big the screen is, and looking for a link to the mobile site can be tricky.

Mobile
users will often come to a mobile site through a search engine, so diverting users
to the mobile version when they are accessing on their phones will save time.

Provide a link to the main site

While mobile sites can be easier to use on the move, content can be limited, and users may prefer to access the full range of content from their mobile, so a clear link to the desktop version should be provided. 

Provide as much content as possible

Some mobile sites, Times Mobile is one, only provide a limited range of content for users, often limited to ten headlines in four or five sections.

While it’s a good idea to keep it simple, it is still possible to provide more content for those that want to access it. The Guardian does this well, by providing a menu with links to20 different areas of the site, while still keeping it usable:


Allow comment functionality

While most desktop newspaper websites now allow readers to leave comments, at least on some articles, yet I can’t find any mobile versions that provide this option.

Make it easy to read articles

Even on larger mobile screens, it can be difficult to read articles, so removing as many visual distractions, making sure ads aren’t intrusive, and allowing for customers to view large text versions and read full screen versions will help. The FT.com app’s article reader provides a great example of this:

Provide site search

This will allow users to access more of the site, and use the mobile site to find what they want. The Guardian and a couple of others do this, but many don’t provide this option. 

Provide related links / further reading

Most desktop newspaper sites provide links to related articles at the foot or the side of articles so that users interested in a particular subject area can read more on that, thus maximising interest for the reader and page views for the site. Very few mobile sites do this though.

Think about an iPhone app

If your mobile site’s audience has a significant proportion of iPhone users, as was the case with FT.com, then creating an iPhone app or indeed other mobile apps is worth considering.

A mobile app can provide a better user experience than a standard mobile site, as is the case with FT.com and The Telegraph.

In the case of The Telegraph, it has made ten times the development costs in advertising since its launch, though The Guardian intends to charge users £1.79 for a one off download, which should cover costs.

Another possible model is that used by The Spectator, whereby users pay 59p per week to access the magazine’s content, though its iPhone app needs some improvement.

Optimise for different mobile devices

There
are plenty of different mobile phones around and designers of mobile
sites need to be able to detect the device and give users the most
appropriate version of the site.

The challenge here is to make the site function well on low end phones, as well as devices like Blackberries and iPhones. In the case of The Guardian’s mobile site, they created four different version, with the lowest resolution devices getting an almost text-only version, and providing more functionality as the resolution increases.