2013-01-24 19.56.16
January 25, 2013

Google CEO Criticizes Mobile Sites

Google CEO Larry Page sent some of the Internet into a flurry yesterday with comments about mobile web page quality. A story in Marketing Land says the company chief’s complaint about how some mobile sites are “too simple” was taken by many to contradict Google’s own mobile-design guidelines.

The company’s own GoMo initiative encourages site owners to create a mobile-optimized landing page for smartphones. The guidelines suggest doing this will improve a site’s search engine ranking. Included, of course, is a pitch for using Google’s mobile ads.

However, as is often the case much of the discussion online was misguided.  After considering the context of what Page says, his criticism of how limiting the mobile experience can be is valid. Anyone with a modern smartphone has a browser capable of rendering full pages very quickly.

Yet too often going to a web page brings up a mobile version that limits content and will not let you switch to the full site. Chrome for iOS and Android offers a feature to request the desktop version, but I have found limited success in getting it to work. Worse yet, other sites like LinkedIn create a separate landing page that promotes their mobile app before even taking you to the main site.

I doubt Page is advocating that web sites should ditch their mobile formats. Instead he is correctly arguing that using a mobile browser should emulate desktop browsing. Consider ESPN or Ars Technica as exemplary models. Both sites have a great mobile layout that does not sacrifice content. Just as importantly, there is a prominent link on the bottom of the page for switching to the full version of the site.

Mobile browsing should not force the smartphone user to constantly make sacrifices. The browsers and devices are powerful enough to take on whatever the Internet can throw at them. It is time to stop locking us down with subpar mobile site design.

Image Credit: Derek Walter

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