Finding your way around a majority of the mobile websites that exist has become a nightmare with the lack of proper usability being implemented into their designs.
This has caused the quality of designs (especially the mobile usability factor) to decrease on a larger scale when compared to the sites that not only practice good mobile aesthetics, but allow their users a smooth transition between the regular site to an enticing experience on their mobile devices.
Because of the instability in a lot of the mobile web design information that is being distributed on the web, a lot of websites have very poor mobile interface designs. Below, we’re going to cover a few simple, yet prominent steps to designing a much more effective interface and increasing the quality of a mobile websites usability.
Get To Know Your Users
Like any other usability article no matter web or desktop related, there’s always some sort of connection that needs to be made between the designer and the user. Needless to say, if you’re aiming towards designing a mobile website with the best possible level of interaction between the sites interface and the user, how would you be able to devise this step effectively if you don’t have a clue who’s going to use the mobile website?
Get to know your users by conducting a few tests and gathering useful information using various usability testing and analytics tools on the large scale site. Remember, your job is to “listen” and learn from your users. Once you have a good idea of what areas and design elements your users are attracted to the most, then you can move on to the next step, which is: Accessibility
Designing your mobile site so that your users can move quickly and freely throughout the interface is key to the effectiveness of your websites usability. For example allowing toggling for options rather than forcing users to view them, hiding rarely used features and widgets, and avoiding having users fill out long forms are just the beginning of things you can do to create a more accessible environment. When users access a mobile website, a massive amount of their attention should be re-focused on the content you want them to view opposed to the aesthetics. This means that the content should be as equally accessible as it is legible.
Keeping Everything to a Minimum
KEM (Keeping Everything to a Minimum), is very much like the Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS) technique. Okay, you got me, there’s no such thing as the KEM technique, but you get the idea. Since effective mobile interactions have everything to do with great usability and nothing to do with overcrowded designs, we find ourselves at a place where in order for us to successfully reach out to a user we must keep our mobile designs as simple as possible. For example, make sure your navigation bar is as short as it can be, you eliminate excessive hyper-links within one page, and you keep the use of images to a minimum. A simple mobile website, will more than likely be 9 times out of 10 more effective then one that feels bloated. Less is definitely More.
Communicating Through Color
As unrelated as it may seem, color plays a large role in a mobile websites usability. When color is used within the right parameters, it gives way to a more visually compelling manner for us to communicate information on a page without having to use up any additional space. If you decide to use different colors, make sure you refer to the W3C Mobile Web Best Practice (Use Of Color), this tells us that if we provide users with information in color, we have to make sure that this same information is available without any color.
Background colors are accepted, however there must be a definite contrast between a background color and text. Information that is conveyed using colors, should contain a clear contrast between any of the other elements within the mobile websites design. Remember, we’re using colors to communicate information effectively, not to make things just look pretty.
The development of effective usability within your mobile website will require you test early on in the design process. As we touch base on mobile testing, remember to keep tests as simple as possible. Testing for usability is not a one-time event, it’s an ongoing process. This will help you increase the quality of your mobile website through time. After-all, Rome wasn’t built in one day. Since there is an enormous amount of devices users can utilize to access your mobile site, you should not only test often, but on multiple devices as well. Even though some devices may use the same browsers, you should make note that testing on multiple devices will help you address the difference in screen resolutions, sizes, and operating systems so that your mobile website is able to run as efficient as possible.
Here’s an article written by Jakob Nielsen on Mobile Usability. It explores conducive research results from 36 websites. Definitely worth reading.
Books and Further Resrouces on Mobile Usability
- A Three Step Guide to Usability on the Mobile Web
- Wikis for Mobile Testing
- Nokia Forums: General Usability Tips
- Handheld Usability Book
- Mobile Usability in Educational Contexts
- Informative Slide on Mobile Usability Testing
- Mobile Usability: Is it Good Enough?
- Mobile Usability: How Nokia Changed the Face of the Mobile Phone
Your Turn To Talk
I hope you enjoyed this post! Please feel free to chime in and leave a comment below ;)