Update: sometime after this item was published, Softonic fixed the bug discussed here that caused mobile brosers following links to items on the Softonic blog to be redirected to Softonic’s mobile appstore.
It happened again. I was happily reading the Twitter timeline in my mobile browser. I saw a tweet with a link provocatively titled “Five reasons to give up Firefox”. That sounded like the start of an interesting flame war so I clicked the link – and wound up on a mobile app download site with the Firefox piece nowhere to be found! Thinking I clicked the wrong link, I hit the browser’s Back button and tried again but still landed on the mobile download page, rather than than the Firefox article. I’d discovered yet another example of thematic inconsistency
Thematic consistency is the principle that a web link should deliver the same essential information to all browsers. Reformatting content to better suit the target platform is fine but serving apples when the user asks for oranges is not.
Sites that break thematic consistency for mobile users bug me so much that I’m going to start calling them out here in posts tagged “Thematic (In)consistency Hall of Shame”. Our first winner is Softonic.com. It’s a PC and mobile download site that also has a blog. The Firefox blog post is at onsoftware.en.softonic.com/five-reasons-to-give-up-firefox When you click that link in a mobile browser it redirects to http://m.en.softonic.com/phones Actually, Softonic.com appears to redirect mobile visitors headed toward any page on the site to the start page of the mobile app store. It doesn’t matter if the link is to a blog post, PC download or even a specific mobile download – all wind up on m.en.softonic.com/phones
Redirecting requests for a specific page to the mobile home page is very user unfriendly. Modern mobile browsers are generally capable of rendering desktop pages. If a resource isn’t available in a mobile formatted version, it’s better to serve the mobile user the desktop page than completely irrelevant content.