If there’s one thing you should know about mobile users, it’s this: There are more of them coming. They’re young, have short attention spans, want everything yesterday, and they have it in for the desktop PC.
If you think the place is teeming with them now, just wait. If this were a plague, the world population would be halved within five years. Yes, it’s that bad. Or it’s that good.
Your job as a business owner is to market to them. So pull back the bed sheets, throw on some lipstick, and for goodness sake tart yourself up a bit. Mobile users are smart, gadget savvy, and on the go.
Get them right and you win the game. Miss them, and you’re one more company that fell from the brink.
Mobile Web Design or App Development?
Basically, there are two choices. App Development, and Mobile Web Design.
The App craze is upon us, so you could easily target your mobile users with App development. Many do. The drawback is it’s expensive, and you’ll likely need to build more than one App so that you’re not restricted to a specific design or marketplace (ie. Apple, Google, RIM).
If you’re a small business owner, App development simply may not make economic sense.
Mobile web design, on the other hand, is cheaper and you’ll reach more people. If your marketing budget is on the trim side, this is likely your direction of choice.
If you need more convincing, take a look at Google. Not exactly short of a buck or two, and on top of most things webbish, Google Plus is a great example of a mobile site that deploys faster than if they were to create an App for each platform.
Once you’ve decided on web design for mobile as the way to go, you then have another choice to make. Do you build from scratch, or undress your standard site?
It’s simpler and less expensive to modify your standard site.
Optimize For Mobile With Layout, Functionality, and Content.
Your mobile creative design needs to be different, and undressed is not a bad way to look at it. Mobile web design needs to be free of a lot of the stuff that, while nice to look at, may not be critical to a user’s real needs.
There are three areas of custom mobile design to give close attention: layout, functionality, and content. Keep in mind that the basic goal is to make the site simple and easy to navigate, and you’ll see that most of this is fairly common sense.
Mobile Web Design Layout
Put yourself in the heads and shoes of your users. Do they have a mouse and a standard keyboard in their hands? They don’t. So keep it simple. Less typing.
Optimize your navigation buttons for mobile by making your buttons bigger. Give lots of space around link objects for fingers to press into. Users won’t push on the wrong link, and are less likely to get frustrated and leave.
Remove all graphics that aren’t absolutely necessary. They’re slow to load. Mobile means information quickly.
You can see this difference clearly with a comparison of Digg’s standard and mobile sites.
Mobile Creative Design Functionality
In general, the fewer images the better, though you’ll probably want to keep your logo. If you must have other images, reduce their size so they download faster. The goal is quicker and easier usability.
Regardless of what’s said here, the needs of your users are ultimately what drives design. It may be that images or video are integral to your site. If this is the case, keep them in. You can always simplify elsewhere.
With a push for Toronto Mobile Web Design, Discotoast did just that for TD Waterhouse. See the comparison below.
Limit, or even better get rid of, pop ups and pages opening in new windows. It’s more intrusive and annoying on a mobile.
Having to scroll in multiple directions is always a nuisance, but it’s worse for a mobile users on touch screens that may wander in the wrong direction. To avoid this, make your mobile site scroll either vertically or horizontally.
Since there’s no standard keyboard and typing can be awkward, the use of features like auto complete and auto suggest in your mobile web design will make your site easier to use.
A mobile browser may not have a back button. Providing one on your mobile site makes your site that much friendlier.
Custom Mobile Design Content
With content there are more compromises to make. In general, less is better. Optimize your content with a focus on what’s most critical to mobile users.
Mobile users are more purpose driven than desktop users. They don’t have the time or space for web wandering, and they’ll read less. If something is not absolutely necessary, consider whether you can do without it.
Having said that, you will have users who are familiar with your standard site, and they may have certain expectations. For this reason, you may not want to lose touch completely with your main site.
One way around this is to have a link from your mobile site to your standard, and vice versa.
Make it clear there are different versions of your website. Choice is a good thing. Let people know they have one.
Below you can see Amazon’s simplified mobile site with a link to the full site bottom left.
You may find that your mobile web design will help with optimizing your standard site. It’s an editing process. Mobile browsing forces us to look at what is essential, which may lead to a better web experience for users everywhere.
If you have any thoughts on mobile web design, we’d love to hear them. Feel free to leave a comment below.