Last week, I was looking at a large data set to confirm the “pre-launch” iPad engagement numbers I mentioned in my prior post on the impact of mobile optimized experiences. Post-launch numbers confirmed visitors using the iPad were much more engaged when presented the standard/desktop version of a website than when those users received the mobile-optimized version. For the particular data set I reviewed (see chart below), engagement levels were 160% higher for iPad users on the standard site than for iPad users on the mobile site. You’ll also note iPhone users are more engaged on the mobile-optimized version of the site.

iPad and iPhone engagement on mobile sites

Before you run off and tell your tech team to alter your browser redirection strategy, you’ll want to confirm this behavior on your own data set. However, as you can see from the chart above, providing the right experience to the right set of users can significantly improve engagement.

Right device, wrong experience

I was sharing these findings with a colleague and he mentioned visiting a website on the iPad where he was forced to the mobile site and was unable to browse back to the standard site to reach the specific content he needed. I had a similar experience last Monday, while browsing the web on my iPhone using the newly installed Opera Mini for iPhone browser. Some sites I visited presented the full version even though the optimal experience would have been the mobile version.

Fortunately, neither of these issues are difficult to correct if you know the right way to identify devices and browsers. One of the most common methods of mobile device detection is to examine the User-Agent (a bit of code in the page’s http header) for attributes indicating a mobile browser.

Here’s where it gets tricky: the iPad Opera Mini User-Agent looks identical to the iPhone Opera Mini User-Agent.  Sites (correctly) redirecting Opera Mini users on mobile devices to their mobile site will also be sending iPad users there.

iPhone and iPad Opera Mini User-Agent:

Opera/9.80 (iPhone; Opera Mini/5.0.0176/764; U; en) Presto/2.4.15

Give Users a Choice

While browser detection and redirection for mobile devices can be a very good thing and often yields significant increases to visitor engagement, the issues above illustrate why users should always have the option to change which version of your site they are viewing.

7 comments
Ms Dynamics CRM
Ms Dynamics CRM

My housemate had an IPad and I would always get frustrated when I was sent to mobile sites rather than the normal ones. As a user, it just seemed counter intuitive to go to a mobile site as I was on a laptop(I know this is not true, but I think many people share my sentiment that the IPad is more similar to a notebook than a smart phone). Now that the IPad II has launched, are sites more cognizant of the data illustrated above(corroborated by your link from 9/9/10) and sending users to the appropriate site type? Like me, not everyone is technically savvy enough to recognize if they are on a "mobile" site or not. Thus, if they perceive that "what they see is what they get", and do not like the way it looks, they may not seek a way to access the site. Instead, they just won't return to the when using a tablet in the future.

Rudi Shumpert
Rudi Shumpert

Ed, Interesting read. I wonder though if the engagement is more to do with the playing with the new toy/iPad than the differences in which site was served up. I would love to see the same test/set of metrics in a few months when the novelty of the iPad has worn off. -Rudi

VaBeachKevin
VaBeachKevin

Can you tell me what metrics you are using to define engagement in your example?

Ed Hewett
Ed Hewett

Good points. Many site owners have certainly improved which devices receive which experiences over the last year and a half. However, site owners shouldn't "set and forget" these business rules given the rapid expansion in the categories of devices users are accessing online content through (tablet, tv, e-readers) as well as changes in form factors in existing categories like mobile.

Ed Hewett
Ed Hewett

Rudi-thought you'd like to know iPad usage continues to follow the profile I highlight above. Updated numbers can be found in this post: Three Reasons You Should Ignore the Experts.

Ed Hewett
Ed Hewett

Great idea Rudi! I believe these numbers represent a fundamental difference in how users interact with tablet devices as opposed to mobile devices but I'll do a follow up post in a couple months once the "new" factor has worn off.

Ed Hewett
Ed Hewett

I used page views per daily unique visitor because of the media-centric business model of the data set. For your own analysis, I recommend substituting page views for something relevant to the particular business model being analyzed (e.g. revenue, leads, etc.).