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I am creating a web application that doesn't work correctly on mobile. I don't want to make it work on mobile because I would rather mobile users have a fully integrated experience and not have to use the web version. This mobile version will be released at a later date based on reaction to the initial web-based version.

So, my question is: Is it wrong to not allow mobile users to use the site and instead show them some sort of splash screen telling them to come back to the site on a computer?

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4 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

How are you planning on detecting whether a user is surfing on a mobile device or not? Keep in mind that not all mobile browsers behave like mobile browsers. In fact, the browser on many newer smart phones seem to try to pass themselves off as regular desktop browsers since they already match most features of a full-fledged desktop browser and don't want to force their users to view stripped down versions of websites designed for more primitive phones.

Even mobile resolutions are catching up to desktops and laptops with WVGA (800x480)—and not to mention netbooks and tablets (will they be considered mobile devices and prohibited from viewing the main site?).

Whatever you decide to do, be careful you're not creating a situation common in the IE4 days where non-IE browsers were being turned away from sites because their browser was "unsupported" (some sites were so arrogant as to recommend that the user "upgrade to IE") even though the user's browser was still fully capable of rendering the page perfectly fine. In most cases, it's almost always better to give an unrecognized browser the benefit of the doubt and let the user decide whether the site adequately supports their browser setup or not. If everything is out of alignment and the navigation is broken, then the user will leave the page. So there's no need to turn the user away off-hand.

Personally, I'd let any user view the standard site if they wish, but just flash a warning when a user is suspected of being on a mobile device, letting them know that the current site isn't designed for mobile users, and a specialized mobile site is in the works.

If you really need to reject users, I would at least put up some kind of "subscribe to updates" box to allow mobile users to be notified when the mobile site is launched. This way you know how many mobile users are interested in the site, and mobile users won't feel like they're being left in the cold.

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Good points, perhaps allowing them to see the site yet displaying a notice saying that it is not designed for their device will suffice. However, I know that the site doesn't work on iOS or Android for whatever reason and it seems strange to allow those users to find out for themselves that it's broken. –  betamax Dec 14 '10 at 13:11
    
@betamax: Yea, I suppose if you know for sure that this is a browser that the site is broken in, and it's really broken, then that might be a good reason to divert the user. That's probably justifiable on grounds of protecting your brand image and possibly delivers a better user experience than showing a jumbled indecipherable page. –  Lèse majesté Dec 15 '10 at 13:01
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Does your site work over Opera Mini? If so, you can provide them with another option if they are willing to really access your site now - ask them to access your site via Opera Mini. As it is just as good as a real browser.

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It's not wrong, it's your website. But what do you mean by "not working correctly?"

If it is a resolution problem, just set a min-width for the body in your CSS file.

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I personally access the web from my phone about 90% of the time when I'm not at work so if it doesn't work on the phone it is not a viable option for me, but currently the overwhelming population still uses desktops or laptops, so you should still have a sizable potential user base by ignoring mobile.

I ascribe to the theory of "if you're trying to please everyone you're not thrilling anyone", as long as there is a large enough group of people that fall into the "will be thrilled" category to support your goals, then the people like me who will be irritated that I can't use your site on my phone don't really matter.

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But is there anything to be gained by turning people like you away instead of just letting you try to use the site on your mobile device? I'm sure most mobile users have already come to terms with the fact that not all sites render properly on a mobile device, so I don't see the point in turning users away. –  Lèse majesté Dec 14 '10 at 12:52
    
As I said in my comment to your answer, if the site is fundamentally broken on their mobile device, why frustrate them by giving them some hope that it might work? –  betamax Dec 14 '10 at 13:12
    
I personally access the web from my phone about 90% of the time when I'm not at work. Pity that I'm at work the 90% of the time of my life and there I use a PC with 26" LCD screen. So untill Apple finds a way to put such a screen on a mobile phone and still make it fit in my pocket, I would rather make WEBAPP work for PC 1st instead of worrying about mobile. Last but not least real commercial order (big bucks) comes from businesses, and they usually buy stuff when they are at work from their office PC,not form their phone at home. –  Marco Demaio Dec 14 '10 at 14:39
    
@Marco It is a pity you spend 90% of your life at work :-) Your comment goes exactly to my point, I personally wouldn't use it if it doesn't work on my phone (I do much of my business when I'm on the go via my phone), but if you're building something that can't work on a phone then I'm not likely your customer and you shouldn't lose sleep over it. –  Joshak Dec 14 '10 at 19:19
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@Lese I think it depends, if you're turning away true customers (as you mentioned above generating false positives) then it probably hurts to turn them away. On the other hand if you have developed a solid qualifier that isn't generating any false positives then it's better to give them a descriptive message rather then let them flounder around and get frustrated. That's my take anyway. –  Joshak Dec 14 '10 at 19:25
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