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Product Design

Top 10 mobile usability guidelines

Ben Obear
July 17, 2015

Today, website users are massively evolving as mobile devices and tablets continue to become more prevalent around the world. Half of the USA's population as well as 62% of people in the UK were reported to be using a smartphone or a tablet as of 2012. This signifies a great shift from website's access by customers through desktops. Nowadays, many people are looking to access information and products on websites through their mobile devices and tablets.

However, how information is presented on a normal web page is quite different to how it appears on a mobile device's web page. This presents challenges as to just how web developers and designers can make the same good desktop web-user experience to be copied on mobile devices.

User experience on mobile devices is highly vital and is among the main factors determining whether a site has a solid conversion rate or a high bounce rate. Mobile usability determines how accessible a site is, how many are able to interact with it, how many of them make purchases, what they gain from the interaction, or whether they will want to return again to the site.

To design a better mobile usability experience, it is crucial for designers and developers to understand the users and their behavior in relation to the mobile experience they will deliver, as well as in relation to the entire mobile web experience. As a designer, you will have to think like a mobile user and ask yourself questions such as; what is the customer looking for from a mobile experience, or what is their end goal after visiting the site. Generally, users expect to focus on the content that will satisfy their goals when they access a website on a mobile device. Plus, they want it in a simplified form, easy to access, and easy to read through.

Here are some mobile usability guidelines to help you create or improve on your website's mobile user experience;

1. Simplify your website content

In simple terms, not everything that can be displayed on a PC will reasonably fit on a mobile web page. Space is little on mobile devices and every pixel counts. Also, mobile sites have to be quick in loading and well focused to keep visitors wanting to come back again. Therefore, you will have to down-scale the content to be featured on your mobile version of the site. Focus on the most important features and content only.

2. Create an option for the user to view the full website

Because your mobile version of the main site will be simplified and only focuses on various main features or content, it is good to always give your users a link option which can allow them to visit the desktop site if they want.

3. Employ a simplified layout to make the site appealing to the eye and easy to use

Most web pages are too wide for the normal mobile phone screens. When a user opens a website that is in this width, they cannot be able to read a full sentence without scrolling across the page sentence after sentence. This is annoying and tiring, making many customers get bored easily with the site. Also, the web pages load zoomed out so that they can fit on the screen. This makes the content too small and therefore hard to read. The user has to keep zooming in and out to read the content, making it difficult for them to easily read the content they want.

To avoid this, create single column web pages that use up the whole width of the screen and scroll downwards. Additional content on the page should then expand downwards so that users can easily scroll up and down to view any content they want; and at the perfect screen size.

4. Consider utilizing more text links than images

Images create more appealing visuals for a website; that is without a doubt. However, on mobile website versions, they can be heavy, slow to load, and annoying to the end user. If users are given the choice to select between a fast loading site and a pretty slow loading site, they will sure pick the fast one any time. Using hypertextual links without images but with the power of colors is a better way of creating an appealing mobile site that has a light user experience.

5. Minimize text entry

Entering or creating text on mobile phones is quite difficult compared to when using a PC keyboard. Users tend to type slower and make more errors when typing on phone keyboards. This is why many users will prefer not to have to type much on a mobile website. You can reduce the amount of text entry required by users through requesting for PINs instead of passwords, or allowing users to store their details for reference.

6. Determine whether you need to create more than one mobile site

Various factors will help you determine if you need more than one mobile site. The most predominant factor is who your target users are. If your website is going to be seen mostly by smartphone users with high download speeds, then just one mobile version is okay. However, if your website is to be viewed even by individuals with non-touch screen phones for a broader reach, then you should perhaps consider getting a paired version.

7. Present the navigation differently and then optimize it

When it comes to presenting content on mobile versions of websites, less is often more. Make the navigation on your site easy for all your users. It is advisable that you put the navigation at the bottom of the page to prevent pushing content down if you place it at the top of the page.

8. Make use of smartphone built-in functionalities

Many of today's phones and smartphones have in-built functionalities that enable users to easily and automatically perform various functions. For example, make calls, see an address on a map, or even input information in innovative ways such as through using QR codes.

9. Avoid using automatic refreshers and pop ups

Considering bandwidth constraints, you should plan to pass your message in a different way rather than by using pop ups and automatic refreshers. A different, lighter and less intrusive approach would be better.

10. Design mobile friendly forms

As mentioned before, entering information on mobile versions of websites is much more difficult than on the desktop sites. Therefore, ensure that all the forms you create on the mobile site are easy to use. Using a menu to make it easy for data selection is one of the great options you can consider in making your site user-friendly.

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Ben Obear
San Francisco