Top 6 Mistakes to Avoid in Mobile Usability

Mobile applications are important for providing users with an alternate means of accessing your web page, as well as keeping connected anywhere and at any time. The programs are an integral part of staying competitive within your market, so they should be created wisely.

A number of potential pitfalls await, and this article will acquaint you with the top mistakes to avoid that may impact your mobile usability.

Mobile Usability

1. Thinking of the Mobile as a Mini Computer

Viewing mobile devices as tiny computers is a major simplification, so the idea that content can simply be shrunk to size is a very dangerous one.

Mobile applications often require major design overhauls. Fonts and colors may need to be readjusted for legibility; contrasts and resolutions may need to be sharpened; complicated design features may need to be dropped or dramatically altered; and information may need to be shifted around so that the most important elements can be viewed together.

2. Not Understanding Your Audience

Although it may seem obvious, you’d be surprised by how many mobile applications seem out of touch with how they are being used in real life – this is to say in hurried, brief, or distracted scenarios.

Mobile usability is dependent on programs being built for “on the go” situations, such as during commutes, out with friends, or waiting before a meeting. Most users will still resort to their computers for large amounts of reading and research, so mobile applications should be fashioned accordingly: trimmed of excess information and filled with fast shortcuts that enable users to access their desired information as quickly as possible.

Extensive browsing and complicated searches are not what mobile devices are generally used for, so understanding your audience’s goal is an integral part of crafting your application. There’s no need to replicate exactly what your free website creator does on the net, so instead tailor your business website wisely for a new context.

3. Offering Too Much at Once

Because of the aforementioned visibility limitations – as well as the time limitations of your users – it’s imperative that mobile applications thoughtfully divide up their information so that each page is kept organized and easily navigable.

Carefully selecting the amount of options you offer is the first order of business. Prioritizing them within the web page design is another. Create homepage links that help to guide visitors through the application. These are helpful in that they allow users to skip ahead directly to the information that pertains to them, bypassing the rest of noise on the page.

Creating such divisions, and placing information in different, linked sections, will help you avoid the pitfalls of overwhelming your audience and causing usability confusion.

4. Failing to Make Choices

Editing is key not only in terms of mobile content, but also in terms of media features, such as photos, video, or a digital portfolio. It’s essential to be keep in mind the fact that applications can take longer to load on mobile devices than they do on regular computers, so choosing to keep things simple is often a major ingredient of success.

The last thing you want is for users to get bored with half-loaded images and end up going elsewhere. Similarly, bombarding them with text-heavy pages can be equally disastrous. Make them circle through too many links and they will get frustrated. In all these respects, the methodical selection of offerings is a must.

5. Being Unfamiliar with the Type of Device You’re Designing For

Remember that not all mobile devices work the same way. Designing a single application that you assume will be compatible with all types is a big mistake.

It’s vitally important to choose which type of device you are creating your application for and to research its functions – its plusses and its drawbacks – to figure out how best to present information and optimize your site for this specific mobile device.

Should you choose to design programs for more than one type, be prepared to make changes and adjustments depending on the differences between devices.

6. Not Testing it Out First

Finally, creating prototypes and running test groups are essential steps in ensuring successful mobile usability.

It would be silly to do the groundwork, but then skip over the last stage. Get feedback from focus groups and make adjustments to your application as you go along. Once your program is available, it will be much harder to back-track, so make sure that you won’t have to!

Your Turn To Talk

I hope you enjoyed this article. Of course feel free to chime in and leave a comment below :)

Comments

  1. ant says

    alot of these can be turned into more general UX rules for other platforms, be it tablets, video game UIs (menus and interfaces), interactive tv, etc.

  2. says

    Your Article mentions web applications a lot, and that’s where I totally agree. Also it might make sense for content heavy websites, like blogs or magazines, to offer a more accessible approach for mobile devices.

    But what’s about a company website or an online portfolio, for example?

  3. Maria says

    Hmm….good idea for a future post! Company’s are faced with the task of creating user-friendly and branded mobile versions. This is definitely a challenge that we’re hearing more and more from designers, as the web heads more toward mobile.

    Thanks Jens for making a valuable point; we will put our heads together and come up with some more tips for corporate sites as well as online portfolios. Stay tuned…

  4. says

    Great tips. I think #7 should be: “Have a purpose.”

    It took companies years to learn that just “having” a website was not enough. Sites need to offer value… and they should offer an efficient and painless means by which to attain that value.

    The same goes for mobile sites. Although mobile web browsing is on the rise, most site owners do not need to replicate every piece of content and all their functionality for mobile consumption. After identifying the key needs (i.e., purpose) of your mobile users, strive to meet those needs as effectively as possible.

    http://twitter.com/DavidBardwell

  5. says

    Really good tips!
    sometimes it’s hard to find call or text option since they’re burried deep deep in between apps, widgets and sparkly design. ppl may like it (sometimes i like it), but phone’s a phone – its basic function is to make calls and send texts.

    good way of testing an app is prototyping them. I use JustProto for that. iphone and android apps, it has also ipad dedicated library.
    ___
    http://justproto.com/en/

  6. says

    To take #1 a step further: it’s critical not to try to duplicate an entire desktop website experience on the mobile device. Mobile users may not need/want to see your fancy Flash skills, or superbly intricate hero image, or over the top marketing nonsense plastered all over every page.

  7. says

    Also mb worth mentioning the loading speed on heavy graphics sites, that’s another poor user experience when wifi or 3gs is not available on the phone.
    And poor navigation for touch screen phones, go to click one link and it triggers something else unless you pinch (zoom in)
    D

  8. says

    All excellent points! I would reiterate that it’s absolutely CRITICAL #1 is followed: it’s better to think of mobile as a single “tool” rather than a computer. If you have a mobile device, what does your app make it “do”? This is the magic of the “there’s an app for that” campaign– it makes an app’s advanced functionality boil down to very specific, concrete abilities.

    Another thing I’d add is that it’s ALL about the little things. Mobile is far, far more “personal” than a personal computer ever was, and people treat these things like they’re part of their home. Show your users that you care enough, test enough, and know enough to take your time and get it right. By polishing even the smallest pieces of your app, you’ll build an interface that power users can admire and that new users will instinctively gravitate towards. Things like scroll behavior, waiting & progress indicators, options panels– these are all areas where users can be suitably impressed and made to feel comfortable.

    pound out the small behaviors that make your app fun and engaging to use, and you’ll impress high-end users while retaining a

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