A recent study to gauge user usability mobile devices showed that user comprehension was 48% of the desktop level when using the iPhone-sized screen. That is, it’s roughly twice as hard to understand complicated content when reading on the smaller screen.
The only reason mobile scored lower than desktop is the screen size, since that was the only difference in the study conditions. A smaller screen hurts comprehension for two reasons:
- Users can see less at any given time. Thus, users must rely on memory when trying to understand anything that’s not fully explained within the viewable space.
- Users must move around the page more, using scrolling to refer to other parts of the content instead of simply glancing at the text.
This new research supports the notion of desinging a separate mobile version for optimal usability. Specifically, complicated content should be rewritten to be shorter, with secondary information deferred to subsidiary pages.