Limitations of the Mobile Web

One of the most overstated applications of mobile phones as ICTs for development is their access to the mobile web. Although it’s true, mobile phones have increased web access to a new audience, both urban and rural, there are both physical and technical limitations to their Internet capabilities. Before preaching their widespread use and impact in developing regions, it may be wise to take a step back and look at their boundaries of effective use first.


Furthermore, smartphones are not the most widely used mobile phone among everyday citizens yet but they are being implemented widely in the areas of marketing, e-commerce and are especially utilized in improving healthcare procedures and care quality. In such cases,


An article by the independent web-research institute, Baymard, “8 Limitations When Designing for Mobile” by Jamie Appleseed lists the top 8 of these issues:


  • No Hover State: This means that web pages with numerous features and content can make navigation difficult. Appleseed outlines two distinct features, visibility and conventionality as other factors that complicate Internet use.


  • Slow and Error-Prone Typing: This can have serious implications especially in terms of hospital and health use. Data errors in e-commerce as well can be disastrous especially if handing significant sums of money


  • Less Context: Smaller screens and visibility cause similar issues to typing as discussed above. When the full typed text of an email or post for example cannot be viewed as one piece this increases the likelihood of errors.


  • Inaccurate Clicks: slow hardware, lack of a right-click option and lack of a hover state can cause inaccurate clicks which all affect user-friendliness.


  • Poor Connectivity: Regions where Internet connectivity is difficult even with laptops and computers, connecting with a mobile device becomes even less reliable. Slow download speeds are also a major factor in use and effectiveness of mobile phones as ICTs. Without Internet connectivity, they lose their basic purpose.


  • Slow Hardware: Similar to poor connectivity above, this is another hassle. Poor hardware quality may also mean a shorter lifespan of the tech device.


  • Usage Situation: If smartphones are used in more serious situations such as business or healthcare, there are interrupting factors such as push notifications, calls, texts, and application notifications that distract from Internet use.


  • No Right-Click: Many mac users may be used to the concept of no direct right-click (macs can still right-click by control + click) however, no right-click capabilities at all significantly slow down time spent in accessing tools and further internet features among other limited capabilities.


Many of these issues such as the increased likelihood of errors, lack of accurate clicking and poor connectivity may seem trivial as many experience them on a semi-regular basis. When used in conjunction with laptops, computers, iPads, etc. limitations of the iPhone for example seem like obvious, common knowledge. As students at a private university, our perspective and background is very different from those who may use smartphones as their sole technology tool. One of the biggest factors is discouragement from use. These types of interruptions and confinements on quality of use can discourage users from trying or reaching out to other forms of technology as well.


Overall, Internet use is a valuable factor of mobile phone use but their capabilities need to be better understood before being hailed as the next big thing in ICT4D.


Resources: Baymard Institute “8 Limitations When Designing for Mobile



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