Detect Mobile Devices? Are You Cloaking Your Way To Bad Usability?

Gab Goldenberg wrote the Beginner’s Guide to Remote Usability Testing and about the mobile usability of text fields for Usability Post.

Due to a surgery that’s left me unable to sit for the time being, I’ve recently been in the position to make much more extensive use of my iPod touch for browsing the web. And besides for realizing that the WP core needs a mobile friendly backend, I picked up on the darker side of mobile detection in sites. Namely, cloaking.

Or at least, that’s the unwitting, painful result of certain forms of mobile device detecting software. Instead of serving the page someone requested by clicking on a search result listing, people get taken to the mobile homepage or directory/folder index.

While it’s not done with ill intent like all the hacked, cloaked and redirected pages on harvard.edu et al hawking “OEM” software (@Matt Cutts, please crack down on that cheeky junk already), the end result is users are mislead. And I am sure it shows in the bounce rates.

A better approach is that taken on sites like Lifehacker where mobile detection yields an optimized experience with the page you requested being served, in a narrower format and without sidebars. It’s a user friendly experience we can all get behind.

[edit: You can see that form of mobile experience here on Wolf Howl too.]

Tapped from my iPod

photo credit: Shutterstock/Red Riding Hood

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