Best Practice or Industry Standard?
Most mobile websites follow the “best practice” of including a link to the full site. It's usually in the footer and it usually links to the homepage of the full site. OK, great. The job is done right? Wrong! The best practice would be better labeled as the “industry standard” because there is a better way.
The Solution – Contextual Preservation
The industry standard fails to support the user's mental state. When a user navigates around on the mobile site, they're giving a pretty clear indication of what they want to look at. Supporting that as they transition from mobile to full site is more work but a good user experience always is. If the user was looking at superWidget3 on your mobile site and they clicked on the full-site link, preserve the contextual relevance and take them to the desktop page for superWidget3.
Why Would They Click It?
Let us consider the reasons that seem most obvious,
- The user does not like/want the mobile version.
- The user thinks they'll see more on the full site view.
- The mobile site is does not provide all the capabilities or information they're looking for.
In reason 1, contextual preservation is usually still preserved because someone of this mindset is likely to bail immediately. Clicking on the full site link on the mobile homepage would naturally take them to the homepage on the full site.
In reasons 2 and 3, by taking them to either the matching page or some contextually relevant page you stand a much better chance of supporting the user's original intent.
User Testing Results
50% Neutral reaction 50% Delighted reaction
In every case, we asked what the user had expected before we let them click the full site link. Universally, we had violated their expectations. However, the fact that contextual preservation tested well proves that as an industry, we've been failing our users. Some expectations should be violated.
But, what if the user really wanted to the homepage? Then they're only one click away. Reverse the situation and trying to get back to what they were looking at would almost certainly be more clicks.
What about consistency? This argument is typically raised by UX professionals. Usually, they're right. However, users have been trained that full site link is their parachute if things are not going well. But if things are not going well and we ditch them back on the full view homepage, which forces them to navigate back to what they are looking for through pinch-zoom, did that consistency help anything? Besides, I would argue that, in fact, we are being consistent. It can be relied upon that every full site link will take the user to something contextually relevant.