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Mobile design is now a must-have for e-commerce businesses as potential customers increasingly use their spare time window-shopping and researching products and purchases on their mobiles or tablets.
According to Stephen Foxworthy, Strategy Director at digital agency Reactive, it is vital to understand how – and why – people use their mobile devices In order to know and recognise good mobile web design principles.
While the design of the mobile site is physically done on a desktop monitor, navigation of the mobile website will be done by customers who are using their thumb to scroll. As obvious as this sounds, a surprising number of developers still design navigational bars and buttons that are too small to be easy to use on a mobile device.
In terms of purpose, mobile devices are often used to browse and research products and services. They may be used far less frequently to actually make a final purchase.
So what does this all mean?
Ensure your website is optimised for mobile, says Foxworthy. Mobile web users will no longer stand for a scaled-down version of a desktop site on their device’s screen – they will instead head off to another site.
“It is ideal to optimise every interface specifically for mobile usage, but this can be very expensive,” he says. “For SMEs, a single responsive template that adapts to various screen sizes is good enough. Given the volume of mobile traffic these days, it is very strange for any business to have a website that is not responsive to all screen sizes.”
Many purchasing decisions are made while browsing on a smartphone, but customers may prefer to buy later on a large screen, so make sure the customer doesn’t lose their favourites between devices. Ensure you have a simple piece of functionality built into your mobile website that allows an individual to save their choices for later. Make sure this functionality synchronises across devices, says Foxworthy.
“Give them an opportunity to continue with their purchase later on,” advises Foxworthy. “It may be a ‘Wish List’ or an ‘Add To Cart’ button or simply the ability to email a link to themselves.”
Web design courses
There are many choices for mobile web design courses, from educational institutions specialising in design, such as Billy Blue College of Design, to IT schools such as the Academy of Information Technology, to various online and in-house courses. Do a Google search to find a course near you.
Years ago in the web design world, the single most important rule was to ensure there was never any content “below the fold”. In other words, everything had to appear on the screen to negate the need for any scrolling. This is now the complete opposite of what smartphone users want.
“People are very happy to scroll on their mobiles,” says Foxworthy. “They don’t want to have to click, because new pages load too slowly on a mobile. It is very different behaviour to desktop shopping, where people are more happy to click for various purposes.”
Look at social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter and think about how your content could be laid out similarly for mobile purposes.
The search function is central on a desktop but is less frequently used on a smartphone.
“Web browsing activity on a mobile device is often about browsing and stumbling across something interesting, rather than hunting for something specific,” notes Foxworthy.
How is this important to mobile web design? It means listing pages should have lots of images, while images on product pages should be larger in order to capture people’s attention.
Buttons should be bigger, graphics should be less cluttered and there should be space around the navigational tools.
Mobile web surfers are not using a mouse pointer or a stylus; they are using their blunt fingers, so build the design and functionality of the site around this.
Buttons are generally starting to disappear as the touch interface and swiping in various directions takes over.
Think thumb, says Foxworthy, and the fingers of your customers will thank you.
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