Yes, people will probably do that on their phone

Two years ago I was in London with my mum, who had graciously come over from Norway to visit me in the UK for the first time. When the time came for me to return home to show her around the delightful Bristol, we decided to save some money on travel—so we decided to travel by bus. My first port of call for cheap-and-cheerful bus travel in the UK is Megabus, so I visited their site in the hotel room the day before our departure to pre-book tickets in order to save another few quid.

All I had was my phone on a relatively dodgy signal. It didn’t drop, but it wasn’t exactly what you would call fast. Oh, and it turns out their website is hardly ideal to use on a shoddy Android 2.2 phone. Pinching and zooming being a bit sluggish is one thing, waiting one minute for AJAX calls and a ton of JavaScript to execute whenever you amend your search is another, and Verified By Visa is the proverbial straw on the camel’s back. This is especially the case when you follow good security practices and store all your unique passwords in a password manager, switching windows six times to copy three characters over, and all of this while fearing your connection is going to time out and restart your whole transaction.

Every interaction you have with a service permanently shapes your impression of the service as a whole. Megabus’ site worked fine on my computer, and I’ve booked many tickets with them before. However, upon painstakingly completing the purchase on my phone, my experience with Megabus was soured. Not due to their bus service, which is generally decent, but due to the fact that a 5-minute task took me the better part of 45 minutes that I could’ve spent with my mum instead. Every touchpoint matters. Since then, Megabus seem to have got a mobile-optimised site, but I haven’t been back.

Generally, if a website/web application does something a bit more complex than displaying some text, and it’s not optimised for mobile devices, there’s a large chance someone in the organisation might have said “Oh, don’t be silly, people aren’t going to do $task on a phone, they’ll just grab their computer instead”. If they like proving their point, they might even point to their analytics and say “look, we’ve only got about $num visitors on mobile devices, there’s no point”.

There’s a chance people have tried to use the site on their phone, realised that it was an utterly sub-par experience, and defeatedly grabbed their obviously-more-worthy laptop or desktop computer to do $task.

I also believe that if that size sees a decent amount of traffic, there’s a chance someone has actually done $task on a phone, and had a really awful experience doing so. They might’ve been in a hotel room with a really shit phone and connection, they might have their computer repaired without a spare, or they simply could not have been bothered getting off the sofa to grab their laptop. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that they had a terrible experience that might permanently sour their impression of your service.

So, what is $task? It could’ve been something as simple as buying bus tickets, like I did. At the time I guess Megabus didn’t value a mobile-optimised site enough.

It could’ve been a major financial commitment, like buying a car. 2.600 cars a week are sold on eBay’s mobile app.

It could’ve also been a complex transaction such as booking a driving test—this requires a lot of personal information, possibly having to grab paperwork with your details, and yet, 23% of people choose to complete this task on their phone. This rate would have probably been a lot lower on their old desktop-only site.

If you present the user with a experience that’s usable on a mobile device, chances are they will use it on a mobile device. This is not to mention, that increasingly, people are unable to just grab a desktop device to use your site. 31% of Americans who use the internet on a phone, ‘rarely or ever’ use a desktop device at all to access the web, solely using their phone. This trend gets further exacerbated the younger your target audience is. 45% of 18-25-year-old Americans rarely or ever access the internet using a desktop computer. I can only imagine this being even more the case with teenagers, who might not own their own personal computer, but they’ll almost definitely have a phone, or even a games console. Do they want to use the internet on their own devices? Youbetcha.

If you ever find yourself not implementing a mobile-friendly solution, in whatever form, be it a responsive site, a dedicated mobile site, or an app for a project, whether due to various restrictions, or just sheer laziness, consider that time is against you. People aren’t suddenly going to want to use their phones less – rather the opposite – and increasingly, it’s the only device they’ll have. Do you want to render these users with an unfriendly experience? Piss your users off and they’ll abandon your product, possibly to your competitor, who might just have an excellent mobile strategy.

At the very least consider it. And don't say you haven't been warned.