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7 tips for improving the usability of your mobile website

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Jovana Stevanovic
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I recently read an article on HBR blog about boosting your organisation’s creativity by imposing constraints. Although the entire article was thought-provoking, there was one part that I found particularly interesting:

“In Silicon Valley start-ups a common philosophy these days is “mobile first”: create the mobile app or mobile version of the website before you do the “full” version.”

And there’s a really good reason for this – the phone’s small screen forces you to ask yourself: what are the most important messages/elements that I want to communicate to my customers?

Every website should have a mobile version

The article got me thinking about the development of mobile websites and apps more than ever before. I am always looking for interesting and useful apps that will somehow make my life easier. Or at least more fun.

But what’s particularly frustrating is looking for specific information that I really need on my phone only to find out that the website isn’t optimised for mobile devices. Zooming in and out and not being able to click on the appropriate links becomes frustrating very quickly. So how hard is it to develop a functional mobile website? I’m certainly not a technical expert on mobile website development, but considering the diversity of tools and resources available today, my guess is that it can’t be that difficult.

According to Forbes, this year mobile devices will surpass PCs to be the most common tools to access the Internet. By 2015, over 80% of handsets in mature markets will be smart phones.

Search Engine Journal article points out that many experts predict that mobile searches will overtake those undertaken on desktop PCs by 2015.

So are businesses responding to the increasing use of mobile devices?

 

What really matters when it comes to usability of mobile websites

Inspired by mobile trends and my own experiences with accessing the Internet via mobile devices, I did some research and compiled a list of several usability guidelines when it comes to designing mobile websites.

  1. Reducing the amount of content – think about what content is critical for your website visitors and what information you absolutely need to communicate to them.
  2. Single column layout – this is usually considered the best option because it allows users to read the information more easily on smaller screens of their mobile devices.
  3. Simple navigation – forget about resembling the navigation of your primary website. Mobile devices are a completely different medium. You need to make your website very simple for users to navigate.
  4. Simple website – not only navigation should be simple – for mobile websites, you should simplify everything.
  5. Minimise text entry – there is nothing more annoying than constantly asking users to enter text via their mobile devices. Despite all the available technology, this particular task still cannot be compared to entering text on your PC keyboard.
  6. Phone functionality – take advantage of the functionality that already exists in phones. E.g. clicking on a phone number displayed on the page to call. This is such a handy feature, especially when you’re trying to make reservations for dinner because copying the phone number has proven to be difficult sometimes, whilst memorising it is just plain annoying.
  7. Colours – carefully determining colours for your mobile website is important, just like with any other type of communication your company has with the world. The colours need to resemble your brand and appropriately convey the message you wish to communicate. You can read about the meaning of different colours in this article, it might help you with choosing the right combination for your mobile website.

I’m sure you will come across many more advices about the usability of mobile websites and will take into consideration those that pertain to you. Don’t forget the single most important thing when it comes to launching a mobile website – testing! Always test the website on all devices, multiple times, in order to make sure it is properly optimised.

Have you had experience with developing a mobile website?

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About Jovana Stevanovic

Jovana Stevanovic
Having studied, worked and lived abroad for a number of years, Jovana has developed a diverse set of skills and a unique perspective into the business world, which she applies in her current role as Marketing Automation Consultant. Her passion for online marketing and a keen interest in global marketing trends are what drives her to produce effective online campaigns for international clients in the IT sector. Jovana graduated from St. Cloud State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing and a minor in Public Relations. Jovana enjoys learning languages and is fluent in Serbian, English and Italian. Her other interests include social media, travelling and cooking.