With the explosion in popularity of smartphones and other mobile devices in recent years, the importance of mobile web design is becoming more and more obvious every day. During the last year there were 91.4 million smartphones in the United States alone, and worldwide, there are over 1 billion smartphones in circulation. That’s not to mention tablets, which accounted for 31 percent of Internet users in the US in 2012, according to a survey by the Online Publishers Association and published by PCMag.
Industry experts have realised that mobile devices are rapidly becoming the favored choice for many people when browsing the web, thanks to their portability and potential for ‘dual-screening’ (essentially the ability to do something else at the same time, e.g. watch television). From a retail perspective, too, mobile devices are rapidly becoming just as important as PCs, accounting for approximately $241 billion worth of transactions during 2011, according to GPMD. It’s critical, then, that websites –especially retail sites – should be equipped to serve the needs of a mobile user just as well as somebody who owns a desktop PC or laptop. The accompanying infographic shows that the impression a mobile site makes on the user is vital: 48 percent of people say that a poorly-designed mobile site is an indication that a business simply does not care.
The Importance of Mobile Web Design. Infographic:
So what do users want from a mobile website? The infographic is very useful in this regard. Perhaps, the main thing to take away from the statistics is that people want mobile sites to be easy to use; roughly three quarters of those surveyed stated that they wanted a site with big buttons, a simple search bar, and a clean look.
The smaller screen of mobile devices, especially smartphones, is one possible explanation for this. Full desktop sites usually have an array of links and buttons, and this can become confusing when scaled down to fit a handheld screen. With less screen real estate to play with, then the priority when designing a mobile site should be have the main functions of the site laid out as clearly as possible, for example, in the form of a few large buttons.
It’s interesting that 74 percent want the option to switch to a full site. The most likely explanation for this is that generally speaking, mobile sites, in simplifying the browsing experience, compromising on full functionality. In short, features which are on a full website are not implemented into the mobile version, because they would end up overcomplicating the user experience. One of the main challenges for web designers in the future, therefore, will be how to make their mobile sites functional without sacrificing utility and aesthetics. As to how they will accomplish this, there is sure to be a great deal of innovative and dynamic mobile web design in the near future, and it will be interesting to see what ideas end up changing the mobile browsing experience.
As things stand, the technology to be able to view mobile-friendly sites is already implemented in most mobile devices. Smartphones and tablets are being designed with easy web browsing in mind. For example, recent BlackBerry PlayBook reviews have highlighted the device’s latest OS update, which adds a ‘reader’ mode to the web browser, making it easier to view web content. In an ideal world, of course, a feature such as this would not be necessary, as every website would be clearly laid out and optimized for a mobile platform.
EasyDesigns founder Aaron Gustafson believes that we will begin to see more and more companies prioritize their mobile sites as more and more people move towards tablet devices. This is definitely something web designers should be striving towards, as mobile dominance is set to continue: the infographic projects that mobile Internet usage will overtake desktop usage by 2014.