web design

Where to start when designing for mobile

Today many businesses realise that mobile design is a force to be reckoned with, yet very few treat this as a separate entity that requires user focused design. With recent surveys suggesting that one in three online minutes is now spent beyond the desktop it is clear that mobiles and tablets are quickly becoming the leading devices used. So why, in many cases, is the emphasis on this experience secondary to that of the desktop?

Mobile devices have changed the expectations of the way we shop; we expect immediate results and ease of use, wherever we are, which brings with it a whole new set of challenges for the designer.

Knowing who the customer is and how, where and why they use the site when on a mobile is key in helping us understand their expectations. Research has shown that though higher value items are generally purchased at home on either a desktop or tablet, but for predetermined or functional purchases smartphones are favoured. Understanding which areas of your website are used more heavily by mobile users can allow for better, more considered design which should improve the overall user experience.

There are many different considerations for mobile that are often forgotten or overlooked and it is not just a case of making current site go down to mobile size. With that in mind, I believe if these 5 key areas are considered in the design stages it can greatly improve how the mobile version of the site will work.

  1. Keep the content simple and concise. By making sure that the customer isn’t overloaded by copy or images it greatly improves the experience for mobile users. Content heavy websites may be useful for the desktop version but, when it comes to mobile, less is definitely more. Only present information that is necessary for them to get to where they need, often the user is out and about when using the site so concise information is key, secondary or more detailed information should be left out. Bloated copy and images will not only lead to more scrolling and a slower download time (remember connection may be poor anyway if the user is out) which will frustrate the user.
  2. Make sure the user goes to the right place. Simple, I know, but making sure your user is identified as a mobile customer and goes to the mobile site makes sure that the optimum user journey you have created is indeed used. Whether this is done using a link to the mobile site, a redirect, when the device is identified, or a mixture of both, this ensures that the best experience is had by the visitor.
  3. Reduce the need for typing. Typing on a phone can be tough for even the most experienced users so this needs considering when designing for a mobile. Reduce all fields on a form so that filling it in is short and sweet and don’t have text inputs on the mobile version if they aren’t needed and only capture excess data. The easier this can be done the happier the customer will be.
  4. Clear, easy to use buttons and navigation will go a long way. When considering mobile design we need to remember that the simpler and clearer the design is the better. Though many desktop websites these days have a drop down, which covers all of the user’s needs, on a mobile this is removed therefore needs to be as simple as possible, without deviating too much for those familiar to the desktop journey. With button designs, both size and spacing needs to be carefully considered so that they are clear and easy to use without hitting another button. Remember you need to cater for all finger sizes, so don’t discriminate against those with larger hands…
  5. Finally, just keep the whole thing simple and quick to use. Making everything minimal, simple and clear has a dramatic effect. The fuller the site, the longer the download time, the longer it takes the user to get where they want, and, in the fast paced world of mobile, the more likely they are to drop out due to frustration. One of the main areas where simplicity is indispensible, on a mobile site, is making sure the checkout process is as slick as possible so they can buy their product with little fuss. There are many ways that this can be achieved but in allowing the user here to bypass steps, using buttons that take them directly to the checkout, will get the them quickly through to the checkout and can greatly improve conversion.

Mobile design often is as important, and in some cases more so, than the desktop version so it’s vital that its design is given as much thought and time as its counterpart.

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