Designing for the Mobile Web

Designing for the mobile web should be one of the key considerations for a designer to take into account when creating a website.

For years this has not been the case: it has been standard practice to simply port over a version of the desktop site that was designed and built back when mobile websites were not even heard of.

But now things have changed. Mobile websites are becoming an essential tool to be utilized as part of an overall strategy. There are a few reasons why this is the case: the explosive growth in use of the mobile web; faster download speeds on mobile devices; capabilities of mobile devices; and the simplicity of mobile websites.

Mobile Web Design

Growth of the Mobile Web
Lets start with the growth of the mobile web: According to a report by Manchester-based Tecmark, as of July 2011, mobile traffic accounted for 12.59 per cent of all UK traffic, up from 0.02% in late 2009. And it’s not likely to stop there either. By 2015 mobile web usage is estimated to overtake traditional desktop / laptop web use.

Speed of Mobile Devices
The download speed on mobile devices is also getting faster; as this happens, people begin to use their smartphone to do more online, such as streaming video content. As speeds increase, the possibilities will rise with it.

Mobile devices are also capable of things that could not be done on a desktop, such as calling a telephone number or adding it to your phone book for later use. Location services can also be utilized on smartphones, allowing local content to be delivered to a user.

Simplification of Design
Designing for mobile devices requires a simplification of information: smaller screen sizes mean less pixels, hence less space. This can often be a good thing though; simplicity and useability go hand in hand. The most important elements are displayed first and anything not essential can be discarded. A good Mobile Website design should make the site simple for the end user to navigate to the content that they are looking for quickly and easily.

Smartphone Use
The way smartphones are used to access websites differs from traditional desktop browsing in that users are no longer static, but can be in front of the TV, at work, on a bus, or anywhere else for that matter. Because of this, mobile users tend to dip in and out of the web when they have a few minutes spare. This also reduces their patience, so fast-loading content becomes more important. If a page takes more than a few seconds to load, then many users will leave the site immediately.

All of these factors need to be considered in order to create an engaging site that loads quickly, is easy to navigate and most importantly from a design point of view, looks beautiful.