Colin Kelly’s Blog: Little Chef and the mobile web

This week – are you ignoring the mobile web?

So you’ve got a smart website, you’re doing some social networking, maybe even writing a blog – everything’s good, right?


Stand still in this game and in reality you end up going backwards.

Look at this week’s evidence involving “Guitar Hero”. Not that long ago it was considered a genius, money spinning new franchise in video gaming. Now it’s been axed by its creators along with 500 jobs. Times change and these days, and in this sector, they change extremely quickly.

Some people in business, as in life, think they can knock a few things off their To Do list and reach the point where things take care of themselves and they can relax.

In my experience nothing worth having works like that. True success comes from a total commitment to continual improvement. And the people I admire most are those who’re in it not because of the pot of gold that might be waiting at the end but simply because they get a kick out of constantly trying to make things better.

One thing a lot of businesses need to address urgently is how their website works with mobile browsers. A few years ago this didn’t seem important but access to the internet from mobile devices, like smart phones, has been exceeding traditional desktop computer access since 2008. And with the rise of tablets like the iPad and Samsung Galaxy the need to make sure your site works and looks good in ALL situations is even more pressing.

Here’s an example from last weekend of how a website that didn’t work on mobile cost a well known brand some business….

I pulled in to a service area because I thought there might be a Little Chef nearby. I wasn’t in any rush to get home, I could almost taste the Olympic Breakfast and was very much looking forward to it. I’d have done whatever it took to get one. Even if the nearest Little Chef was 20 miles in the opposite direction I was travelling I was quite prepared to turn round and go back to wherever it was.

I took out my iPhone and found the Little Chef website expecting it to at least include a map of Britain with details of all their restaurant locations.

It actually went one better than a map. It had boxes where I could enter the start and end point of my journey and it would tell me the location of every Little Chef along the route.


Except it wasn’t really.

Because it quickly turned into a total footer. And from being prepared to go to considerable lengths to find a Little Chef, the experience of searching for it through their website on my iPhone completely exhausted my patience.

All I wanted was a big fat box I could put a location into. But that’s not how it’s laid out on the Little Chef website. It’s a perfectly good site but access it on a smart phone and you’ll see it’s exactly the same as the standard version and much harder to use.

It requires zooming in on text, moving the screen around, trying to type in tiny little boxes then zooming back out to hit the “submit” button. Try it for yourself and you’ll see what I mean.

The point is if even a few websites are now optimised for mobile browsing the user becomes increasingly reluctant to persevere with those that aren’t. And that cost Little Chef business last weekend. Worse, in my mind they’ve gone from being a company who’ve come through some troubles and deserve to be given a chance to just another business who’s website annoyed me and a brand who’re still a bit stuck in the past.

So what should Little Chef – or any business – do? Watch this video and find out…

Now –  give me your mobile internet heroes and villains. Have you come across someone who’s got it spot on, or someone else who’s totally inadequate? Spill the beans!

And remember the team at NS Design can help optimise your existing site for mobile access or make sure your new page is right at the cutting edge. Give them a shout and they’ll be happy to help.

ps –I’ll see you this Sunday if you’re coming along to the Kelvin Hall for the Scottish Rocks basketball match!!

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5 Responses to “Colin Kelly’s Blog: Little Chef and the mobile web”

  1. Gary

    You’re so right Colin.. they are a perfect example of a business that needs to consider “mobile” more than most… and understand the reasons why/when people are using a mobile over a desktop browser. Shameless plug – visit on your desktop, then view on an iphone… Why a brand like Little Chef don’t have something similar is a mystery… We’d be happy to help them sort it 😉

  2. Fraser

    Maybe I search differently from Colin, but I just googled “little chef” on my iPhone and Google Places brought up the nearest locations. From there, I had maps, directions, telephone numbers.

    From the sites which i look after, about 10-15% of searches come from mobile devices (according to their google analytics). I know mobile useage is set to grow but a decent stylesheet set to mobile browsers should suffice most sites rather than a completely different mobile one.

  3. Euan

    Don’t disagree with anything you’ve said but can I point out that I had to reformat the page to read it on my Blackberry and I couln’t watch the video either!!

  4. Gary

    Euan – fair comment! Surprised it gave you so much difficulty mind you… the videos for example are YouTube’s HTML5 compliant embeds, so I’d have thought that would be fine for Blackberry (more research required) – certainly all fine on IPhone.

    Fraser – You’re correct – browsing googlemaps/places etc will return a different experience, but what Colin did was common – he just went direct to the company’s standard website, and from there had a terrible experience on mobile.

    Regarding just swapping CSS suitable for mobile, yes of course that’s a great starting point, but I’d argue that more important, was actually prioritising the actual content – people don’t wan’t ALL your normal web content when viewing it on the go, they want the stuff that’s relevant to their situation – ie: being mobile, so all your about us, and company history, etc etc is somewhat redundant – more critical is the focus on “phone us” (via one click dial), “find us” (via integration with your smart phone’s google maps etc), “opening hours” etc..

    All great comments – keep them coming!