Looking for Links in All the Right Places

This week, we’ve had mobile best practices on the brain. While looking into mobile redirects for a client, we stumbled upon a question:

If you link to “full site” from your mobile site, shouldn’t you also link to “mobile site” from your full desktop site?

The Answer

Yes. Usability guru Jakob Nielsen says so, Google calls it “best practice #9,” and mobile expert Stephanie Rieger adds even more depth to the discussion.

To summarize their thinking, you should add a mobile version link to the full site in case your visitor’s mobile device was not detected, and she was delivered to full site. Another reason to include a mobile version link is so site visitors who followed the “full site” link can easily return to the mobile optimized website, or move between both site versions–a behavior Rieger describes as dipping in and out.

Until now, I’ve never intentionally added a “mobile version” link anywhere on a desktop site for the purpose of usability (and I’m a UX architect!). However, it’s a simple technique that has the potential to significantly ease user frustration. For example, I can recall times when I’ve attempted to return to a mobile site from the full site, only to find that I had to retype the URL from memory or completely start over. I could’ve really used a handy link back to the mobile version.

I did a quick survey of full sites consistently linking back to mobile sites, and found that for every desktop site that offers an easy way back to a mobile site, there is one that doesn’t. I even looked at my past mobile projects, and realized that I had included a mobile link in a consistent place on the desktop version half of the time. However, I wasn’t linking to the mobile site for usability purposes, I was promoting the mobile site to desktop users. (At least my marketing brain was onto something!) Though, it’s never too late to fully embrace this best practice.

Best Practices for Linking Between Website Versions

To recap, and because I read that writing something down helps commit it to memory, here are some important mobile best practices for linking between mobile and desktop website versions.

  1. If you have a standalone mobile website, and mobile visitors arrive at your full site’s URL, redirect them to the mobile version.
  2. Ensure that your mobile version has a “full site” or “desktop site” link, typically found at the bottom of the page.
  3. Once a mobile visitor is on the full site, provide a link back to the mobile site.

Now check your website and make sure your “mobile version” and “full version” links are in all the right places!