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.).