All the trends tell us that mobile browsing is here to stay, but in the rush to “go mobile” many websites forget the new device comes with a new set of usability guidelines, constraints and best practices. Mobile is not just a new way to play, it’s a brand new game, with a new set of rules, and has to be treated as such.
What your Mobile Website Does
Your mobile site should not just be seen as a companion to your website, but as its own showroom for your products or services. Visitors will often decide whether to return to your site via their PC based on their experience of your mobile offering. With mobile web usage currently making up over 22% of all web visits, and predicted to more than double within the next two years, it’s no secret that mobile is going to change the way we browse, shop and play online.
What’s less well known, but just as relevant to website owners, is that nearly 40% of new customer will first visit your site on their mobile device, and then decide whether to visit on a desktop. This has recently created a culture that dictates the big web players are now designing for mobile first, desktop second.
With this information in mind, usability for mobile must focus on 3 fundamental requirements: concise text, pared down design and user-friendly functionality.
Text for mobile must necessarily be both short and concise. Longer content would involve either using a smaller font, reducing usability, or will require users to scroll several times, which is less comfortable on a mobile device than a PC. Based on Clicktale’s research on non-mobile sites, only 20% of users ever scroll to the bottom of a website. This is compounded on a mobile device, where any content is competing for attention not just on the device, but from the users environment, be it supermarket, bus or football game. Mobile users are using just one eye and one thumb to view your mobile offering, so your text must be as clear as possible to battle this partial attention.
It is crucial to be aware of the reduced space you are working within when designing for mobile, but it is just as important to focus design on being pared down, so as not to create conflict with your content. All visuals that are not directly related to your key content should be reduced, or completely removed. Be aware that the mobile “canvas” varies so drastically from one device to another that even the most beautifully crafted designs will look like junk on some device somewhere. Minimalist, well-paced designs utilising responsive HTML 5 architectures can work successfully to highlight your content was given the user just enough visual eye candy to keep them interested.
It is not enough for mobile offerings to be aware of traditional web functionality, but also to focus on how their site functions on the specific device that the user has chosen. For example, a user might be looking up a product review before making a purchase in a store, or find a local bus route, or checking a local flight time. All these are specific user based mobile scenarios that pop up time and time again, and websites have to understand that this is the ONLY thing the visitor wants to get out of their site. Distracting with graphics or offers will just infuriate them.
There are other basic functionality questions that have to be asked. Have you factored in clicking, scrolling, pinching, etc? Are you aware that when the call to action is touched, the user’s finger will block other areas of your site? Have you taken into consideration the smaller screen size and the potentially slower internet connection? Without a focus on the user’s experience, any mobile offering will lack the fundamental usability necessary to fulfil its required function.
When launching any mobile offering, fulfilling the requirements of pared down design, concise content and functionality within the device the user has chosen will lead to a successful mobile site, and one which can be used as a template for any traditional website you may choose to accompany it.