The use of mobile devices to access the internet has hugely increased in recent times. More and more, people are using smartphones and tablet computers:
- to find specific information, eg train times
- to research products and prices before buying in a physical store
- for entertainment on the move
User experience is definitely something to think about for people accessing your site this way – otherwise you could be missing out on an ever-growing market of mobile customers.
How can I improve the user experience for mobile devices?
When using a website on a mobile device, utility is far more important than stylish design. A user on the move doesn’t want to wade through unclear navigation and mountains of text – they want to complete their task (finding the information they need) as efficiently as possible.
To make your existing site more satisfying to use on mobile devices, you should:
- use mobile-friendly style sheets during website build – this ensures the site displays well on different browsers and sizes of screen
- keep image sizes small, and use clear alt text to identify what the image is – many mobile users choose not to download images from the web while browsing
- break up your content with clear headings and subheadings, and keep it concise
- highlight key text, to help users with a small screen pick out important points
- make buttons large and easy to find and ‘hit’ – small buttons, labelled with small text, can be frustrating on a touchscreen device
- remove unnecessary steps such as welcome screens
- find alternatives to Flash animation, if your site uses it – it isn’t supported by all mobile browsers
What about mobile sites and apps?
If your existing site is very mobile-unfriendly (with lots of text and a complex design), building a separate, simpler mobile site could be a good idea.
Don’t forget you’ll have to maintain and keep both sites updated independently – changes made to one site won’t be reflected on the other.
Apps – pieces of software which help the user carry out a particular task – can perform extremely well for user experience. But they are a more expensive option for businesses for develop, as different apps need to be coded for each ‘platform’ (eg an app for an iPhone won’t work on an Android device).
A professional web design company can advise you on the different options and costs involved.