Skip to main content

One Thing That Will Wreck Your Mobile Site And One That Will Make It Kind Of Suck

By August 17, 2012April 16th, 2014Website Design & Marketing
One Thing That Will Wreck Your Mobile Site And One That Will Make It Kind Of Suck

Consider this a bit of friendly advice. After you read this, I want you to grab the nearest smart phone or iPad and look at your site. If it does either of the things I’m about to complain tell you about, go fix it right now.

If you don’t, you could be losing out on visitors, readers and even customers. These are not even major things like difficult forms or teeny text and cluttered sidebars. Those will make your mobile site less than enjoyable/and or usable, sure. But these two tiny details can have such a tremendous impact that you might as well kiss your mobile users goodbye if you don’t fix them immediately.

And they’re completely not a problem on a desktop monitor, so unless you’re paying attention to your mobile site you may never even notice.

Oh, and this is no “it’s just my opinion” kind of thing, either. These are facts.

And here they are.

The One Thing That Will Wreck Your Mobile Site Is…

Popups.

We’ve been told: they work!

We’ve been told: nobody likes them, but they increase subscription rates!

What we haven’t been told is: they will render your mobile site 100% utterly and completely useless.

The problem with those snazzy popup/popover subscription windows is that they usurp the entire real estate of the mobile screen. On a regular monitor, we click the little X and get on with our day. On a mobile device, we’re stuck sort of pinching and zooming and scrolling around in search of an X that is just somewhere far enough off-screen that it’s impossible to close it and view the site.

Worse? Most of the time these popups don’t even work for their intended purpose. They end up just being a hazy black cloud hovering over the content we want to get to. Even if we were desperate and opted in because we really wanted to get to the page content, or perhaps really wanted to join the mailing list/download the eBook/get the video, we couldn’t. The form fields are missing along with the X button.

By way of disclaimer, I’ll tell you that there are some popups that do work and even display the little X. But not many. And don’t assume that yours does – check it! With the plethora of popup options and plugins, there’s no reason to stick with one that wrecks your mobile site. Either disable it on mobile, or find one that lets a visitor escape to your content.

If you don’t, then you’re literally preventing your audience from ever getting to your site on mobile. Take it from someone who does more web browsing on my iPhone than on my desktop… I will not remember to visit your site on my desktop later.

The One Thing That Will Make Your Mobile Site Kind Of Suck Is…

Hovering share buttons.

I’m talking about the hovering share buttons that so many of us, especially bloggers and content sites, use. In fact, you’re looking at one right now – just check out that fun little plugin hovering over to your left as you read this. You probably use the same one!

These are awesome on desktop monitors. They follow your readers around and make it impossible not to share.

The problem with these babies on mobile is that much like the elusive X button, they hover somewhere just off-screen so you can’t ever really get to them. No amount of pinching and zooming will bring those buttons into view. All you get is a corner of blue or a stray letter.

Now, while this won’t wreck your mobile site, it will make it impossible for anyone to share the content via your mobile site… and that kind of sucks.

Not for me, mind you. If I can’t share your content, I’m pretty sure I’ll eat a cookie and get over it. But it totally sucks for you!

The reason we put those share buttons on our sites is because we want people to share. So why would we want to make that literally impossible for a big chunk of our audience?

I haven’t found a way to fix the floating problem yet but there is a workaround and when you get to the bottom of this post you’ll see what it is: more share buttons.

Since I know my mobile users can’t see those pesky hovering share buttons, I added a few more at the bottom to make it easy. Not all of them – just trying to keep it clean! – but enough that people can still share if they choose on the major social channels that are most important to me.

Yes, you can adjust the margin on the floating bar so it moves more to the left or right. And some people do move it farther toward the right so it appears a bit more visibly on mobile. Of course, there’s the counter-problem which is that now your hover bar is hovering right over your content – yes, I’ve seen that too! So you can never read what’s written under that bar.

Please don’t let that be you! If you want people to share your content, take the easy route and plunk a few extra buttons at the bottom of your post. As long as I’ve been doing it, nobody has ever said to me, “By God, Carol Lynn, I can’t believe you’ve duplicated those buttons!”

I bet most people don’t even notice.

But I bet they’d notice if they wanted to share and the buttons weren’t there!

So that wasn’t too tough, right? Two fairly simple things to fix, but two that can have a major impact on your mobile site. Oh, and if you’re thinking that mobile is not that big a deal? You’ll want to read this post for a few eye-opening stats.

So go now, grab a mobile device and check your site. Be sure it’s readable – and shareable. Then pass this along to two of your friends… and tell them to pass it along to two of theirs… and two of theirs… and before we know it every mobile site on the planet will be fixed… one popup at a time!

Join the discussion 18 Comments

  • Hi Carol,
    Very good points. There are many things that looks much different on a phone screen vs a computer screen. As a matter of fact, there are many things that looks different from one computer screen to another.
    Not being able to find the X to shut off a pop up is darn annoying and will make me just shut the whole thing off, so marketers be aware as I’m certainly the only one. I’ve done that even on computer’s screen too. First of all who even use pop ups at all? I hate them!
    Thanks for all those clarifications that lots of people need to know 🙂

    • So it’s not just me, that’s good 🙂 I figure if something bugs one person, it’s bound to bug another. The thing that kills me is that so many people still do these things and I have to believe it’s just because they’re not paying attention. Otherwise, I’m sure they wouldn’t leave their site completely dysfunctional. Hopefully this will get a few of those people to look at their sites!

  • Do not know what to say other than, absolutely true! I am pretty sure that some people do not know these two things. But, it is really hurtful to the mobile readers.

  • Adrienne says:

    Oh hallelujah Carol… I’ve been preaching this for awhile now.

    I know that popups do all that you suggested here but although I’m not accessing my site via a cell phone, I find them so darn annoying. I can only imagine what people must think of them if they’re on their mobile devices.

    The floating side bars annoy me when I’m on my desktop. I know that not everyone’s screen resolution is the same so even when I visit a site I’ll find them floating on the content itself or so far off the page I have to change the screen size each time. If I don’t like it I can only imagine what others are thinking.

    Thanks for sharing this with us. I know these things are suppose to be great but if you’re chasing your readers away, is it really worth it!

    ~Adrienne

    • I know!! People just assume if their site looks good for them, it must look good for everyone. Alas, that is not often the case. i can’t tell you how many times I’m building a website and I look at it in Chrome on my desktop because that’s what I use every day, and I work on it and work on it… then one day I say hm, I better check this out in IE or something. And lo and behold, it’s NOT WORKING! Just on my one computer, one website can look completely different in Chrome, Firefox and IE. Throw in mobile and you really need eyes in the back of your head.

  • choklatechild says:

    You’re right about readers noticing when the share buttons aren’t there! I know I do and it’s a shame but I say “oh well” and keep it moving but your content is now down one less share. It’s good that you put the share buttons at the bottom in addition to the side, giving readers options.

    • It’s funny how people seem to notice when it;s missing on other sites, but we forget to check our own 🙂 I like to share content so I always notice when they’re missing!

  • Sue Price says:

    Hi Carol
    I had pop up domination active for some time. I do think it worked as far as increasing subscribers but I did get complaints about it being annoying. So I took it off. I had not thought about the mobile angle so thanks for that.
    I only changed my share buttons over last week – so phew!
    I tried to share someone’s post a few minutes ago and the buttons kept moving, so I gave up.
    Thanks Carol for some great tips.

    Sue

    • A lot of people like that plugin (who use it) and I’ve read plenty of stats that it works but it’s funny, I have never heard anyone say anything except that it’s annoying when they see it on a site! I wonder if it works on mobile? At least you’re all clear and don’t have to worry about it anymore 🙂

  • Thank you for letting me know why I don’t use popups at all. It might work for some people, but I hate them myself, so I won’t impose them on others. You just never know what annoys people these days, but that’s an oldie but goodie complaint. My site works great on mobile devices, but that is with the help of plugins. I am in the clear! Yipeeeeeeeeeeeee…LOL!

    • it’s funny I have never met a single person – not even one! – who didn’t mind popups. everyone seems to hate them. Yet so many people use them! I struggled with that too – people say use them, they increase subscriptions. But I have a hard time using somehting I hate!

  • Ben Barden says:

    Great tips. And some of the best-known bloggers fall foul of these points, too. I noticed the floating share bar on Chris Brogan’s blog when I viewed it on my iPhone. The share bar obscured a great deal of the content in his post. I did reply to him on Twitter to let him know, but he never commented, so no idea if he realised.

    • Those share bars can be pretty snarky if you don’t pay attention. At some point I really hope those plugin developers will have settings for mobile display vs desktop display. when they hover over content it’s the worst. Really unhelpful!

  • Hi Carol,

    thanks for pointing us to these potential issues and creating awareness for usability. I don’t use any of these, neither popups nor a floating sidebar. I usually click the x of my browser tab when I see one and not just the x of the pop up window. As far as the floating sidebar is concerned, they’re not visible on all browsers and computer screens, especially on laptops.

    Take care and have a great weekend ahead

    Oliver

    • That’s the trouble with these things – they behave completely differently in different places. So we have to really pay attention because it’s easy to miss these little things!

  • Maarten J says:

    Hi Carol,

    you’re spot on about the usability issues on mobile. I read a lot of web pages on my phone, often the desktop version because there’s no mobile version, and I totally recognize this.

    Interesting, then, that this very page has both a popup and a floating share-bar :-S

    Personally, I never (nay, never) want to use social media sharing buttons. My real friends are too dear to spam, and my more distant social media “friends” couldn’t be bothered, really.

    Many people obviously do like to “share” via social media. Still, they don’t want to do this all the time. They want to do this after they’ve read it.

    Yet you are nagging us all the time with this in-your-face sharing bar, that grabs attention to the eye because it “moves” relative to the page content when you scroll down.

    I just really hate this can’t-make-you-go-away nag-nag-nag in-your-face desperate-for-attention promotion style.

    It’s so darn “effective” that it actually distracts from the content itself.

    Is you addiction to “being shared” really more important than having visitors actually read your article?

    Can’t you be content with share buttons on the top and on the bottom?

    Just say no to floating bars!

    Maarten

    • Yes THIS page (desktop) has both – but the mobile has neither. If you’re viewing this on a mobile site and you see either floating share bars or a popup then I would very much like to know because it means a setting got tripped somewhere because that is not how it was or intended to be. I tested it recently (as I do frequently to be sure everything is working) and I did not see any issues but it’s possible I had a cached version.

      The problem is not the presence of the share bar or popup per se – the problem is that they overwhelm the experience. Popups that can’t be closed will prevent someone from reading. Share bars that float over the content will also prevent someone from reading effectively.