Key Elements of Mobile Web Design
We are witnessing a very rapid change in the way in which people access the Internet nowadays. With the development of mobile devices (smartphones and tablets, in particular), the primary focus of web design and development has shifted from designing for PCs to designing for mobile devices. Everyone is going mobile and it has been recorded that one half of all the local searches has been do mobile device. If you compare this to the statistics from 2011, you can see that the mobile-Internet trend is definitely on the rise and there is no way that it will stop anytime soon.
So, if you are planning on going mobile with your website (and you definitely should), here are some key concepts that you need to follow so that the site would be up-to-date with all the current principles of mobile web design.
Know who will use your website
Well, this principle basically stands for any website design, not just for the mobile ones. However, it is so important that I will relay it here, as well. It is of vital importance that you know what kinds of people will access your website, for a few reasons. First of all, you have to know what parts of your website’s content to focus on. Secondly, you cannot just assume that everyone has an Android device or an iPhone, although many do.
The solution for this would be to view the existing analytics for your website and see what types of devices access it the most (yes, you can do that) and also, do some research into your target audience. It would be unwise, for example, to target the older audience with your site, because they seldom access the mobile Internet, unlike the young.
Understand how people use the Internet on their mobile devices
There is a misconception with mobile designers that people use their phones to find information quickly, on-the-go and that they need the information fast, meaning that they do not care for anything else, only for the information they are looking for. While this may be true when we are on the street, the statistics show that, more and more, people are using the mobile phones in situations where they have time to kill or just sitting in their living room (sometimes it’s easier to browse on the phone then to get up and go to your PC).
This means that the concept of designing websites for utter functionality, without adding any decorum, is faulty, at best. You still want to give your visitors a reason to stay and explore. However, this also depends on your target audience and the purpose of your website, so the research is vital before you start anything.
Make the core of your content the same
I’ve seen a couple of websites that look completely different when accessed from a desktop computer than when accessed from a mobile device. My guess would be that the proprietors of the site wanted people to have different experiences and to put focus on different things. However, the general advice here would be not to do that. The users want their experience to be similar, so keep the core of your website the same. Of course, you will have to streamline a bit and to downsize, but do not do it too much.
The navigation on the site should be functional
When it comes to content, we have to speak about navigation, as well. Mobile users have more limited navigation options (because of screen size, thumb-navigation, slower loading times, etc.), which means that you have to, somehow, make it smoothly navigable in those circumstances. Usually, this is done through spacing navigation links (so that a thumb could ‘tap’ them with ease), dropdown menus, keeping key content on top and similar techniques. What you choose is up to you, just make it easy for people to get around on their small screens.
Decrease your loading times
Most users who access mobile sites do so through mobile Internet (either EDGE or 3 or 4G) which is (still) slower than your average Wi-Fi access point. This means that a website with a lot of extra content (like background images, special effects, Flash animations, videos, image sliders, etc) will have a really tough time presenting itself on an average mobile device and, if it does, it will consume a terrible amount of data which will, in the end, be paid out of the users pocket. So, keep it simple and easy-to-load. Your users will love you for it.
See it all from the point of the user
While you are designing the site, you can never be sure that everything that you do will be appealing to the average users. The site will be accessed by people who know nothing about web-design and some things that you have put up might not sit well with them. You can avoid this by testing your site with average Internet users and hearing what they have to say.
The situation in the mobile world is changing rapidly, with each passing year. Staying on top of that game is hard, but, with the right advice, you can be there for a long time. The key word here is: following the trends. You must always be keeping with the times – otherwise, you will fail. Simple as that.
Mark Taylor is a full time employee with web development company – Leading Edge Web – as a digital producer and UX specialist. Working closely with global brands and leading Australian businesses, he helps define the optimum digital solution for their online presence. Mark also liaises with internal developers and creative teams in managing project scope.