Many of the big newspapers have launched sites specifically for mobile users, Graham Charlton has recently reviewed several of them here.  But are duplicate sites really the way to go?  How do you work out what to include?  Above all, what happens if after all your efforts a mobile user decides to access your standard site and gets a poor user experience there?

System Concepts has just tested the mobile and standard sites of three quality newspapers:The Times, The Telegraph and The Guardian when accessed using a mobile phone.  Our results clearly highlighted some of the issues brand owners face in deciding their mobile strategy.

We found that in general, users were more successful and preferred using the mobile sites rather than the standard sites as long as the information they needed was provided.

The Times and the Guardian have built mobile sites with plenty of functionality.  Their mobile sites were rated better than their standard sites when accessed from a mobile.

The Times mobile site was rated the best by users, particularly for being:

  • Quick
  • Making information easy to find

The Guardian came second, it was seen as:

  • Easy to use
  • Appealing

The Telegraph seems to have a different strategy for its mobile users and provides a very limited mobile site which was not rated highly by users.  However, the standard Telegraph website performed much better than the others when accessed from a mobile.

So who is providing the better overall user experience? Should you be putting your efforts into making your standard site perform well on all platforms, or is platform specific the way to go?

As usual I suspect there is no easy answer, and your strategy should depend on:

  • Product
  • Budget
  • Your target audience.

Whatever you decide, there is no doubt in my mind that a user centred design approach is critical to really understanding who your audience are and what they want from your product on a given platform. Oh, and the key to optimising your site is testing, testing and more testing. Even on the best of the mobile newspaper sites, we found some classic usability issues.