With the invention of the smart phone, more and more Americans are accessing the web from their mobile devices. In fact some of you may be reading this blog from your iPhone right now! According to a report published by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, Mobile Access 2010, in the past year 38 percent of U.S. cell phone users accessed the internet from their phones. With Comscore publishing a report estimating that 234 million Americans over the age of 13 were mobile phone subscribers, we can safely deduce that 89 million Americans assessed the mobile web within the past year.
Thoughtful web design takes into account the end users experience. It is not enough to design something that simply just works, it is important that the design creates the “Wow” factor with the user. Some of the best sites take into consideration what type of device the page is being viewed on, including the resolution, color options, and available functions. They don’t just rely on the device to figure it out. Additionally, many of the rules of thumb used in designing a website for a PC or MAC do not carry over for a mobile website. Let’s take a look of some challenges, best practices, and things to avoid when designing for mobile devices.
Include only pertinent information. Mobile screens have only a fraction of the area or pixels on most PC monitors. This means that it is important to only show the essential information. This means to be sure to identify page requests from mobile phones and only include the most crucial content. Otherwise, pulling up a non-mobile website, on a mobile device, may push important information down or cause it to be difficult to find amongst everything else on the page.
Reasons for web use on mobile devices are different from on your PC or MAC. Take into consideration why most people are using their mobile devices for the web as opposed to their PC or MAC. Often time’s mobile users are looking to get directions, a schedule or agenda of what is going on at a particular location, or simple entertainment that will help them pass time. Keeping this in mind, your mobile site should allow your users to get to this information quickly.
Screen real estate is precious. Don’t repeat the navigation on every page on a mobile website; keep it only on the homepage. On other pages only include links back to the homepage and back to the last important point along the path users have taken. Show these links at the top and bottom of the page so they’re never too far away. Make sure images are small on a mobile website or minimal. Although images and video are visually pleasing on a PC or MAC, on a mobile device you are more likely to slow down the connection and take up valuable space causing frustration to the end user.
Simplicity and Clarity. Allow for users to input information as simply as possible. This can include allowing users to make selections instead of inputting information through free text. Typing on mobile devices can be painfully slow and more error-prone. In addition, clearly distinguish selected items since mobile devices tend to have poor cursor control.
In a nutshell, to fulfill the end user’s needs it is imperative to create a mobile website, and follow these suggestions. If possible test your website on different mobile devices or seek out using an emulator that will allow you to view your designs. Lastly keep up with any new trends as mobile device technology is always changing, having awareness of these updates will aid in successful design.