Mobile user experience should be a core consideration for all web designers and online businesses. A huge portion of all online activity now takes place on a smartphone; Google have even created a completely separate index
to make sure they're giving mobile searchers the best possible results. Even if your website works like a dream on larger screens, you'll lose a lot of potential customers if it's a nightmare for smartphone users.
So what can I do to make mobile users happy?
If you want to get a good return from your site's mobile visitors, you'll need to think about the user experience you're offering and how this translates to smaller screens. Mobile user experience quality depends on many different factors, but here are a few key areas to focus on:
Use a responsive design.
The first step towards total mobile-friendliness is upgrading to a responsive website design
. Browsing a non-responsive website on a smartphone usually means 'pinching' to zoom in and get a proper look at the content; a well-designed responsive website will automatically adapt to fit the screen it's being viewed on, so no matter what device your customer is using, your content should display perfectly with no pinching required.
Don't bury important content.
One mistake that lots of people make these days is assuming that mobile users are happy to scroll indefinitely in order to reach the piece of content they need. It's true that scrolling is a more comfortable and fluid action than clicking/tapping, and because of this, it's safe to assume that most mobile users would rather scroll through a long page than click through several small pages (this is why people don't like those articles that display information in the form of a click-to-proceed slideshow). However, smartphone users don't have an infinite supply of patience, and you won't be doing anybody any favours by putting your important content at the bottom of the page, several screen-lengths down.
Wherever possible, the 'meat' of your page should sit above the fold
(or, failing that, not too far below the fold). Make your important content - your call to action, your key info - immediately visible rather than assuming that people will be happy to scroll down to find it.
If there's one thing that everyone on the web (but especially the average mobile user) hates, it's a page that takes an eternity to load. Even if you don't care about ticking off smartphone owners, you should be striving to ensure that your website loads quickly for the benefit of your desktop visitors; if you are serious about maximising your mobile conversions, then site speed becomes even more important because lots of mobile users are browsing within a very limited time window. Perhaps they're killing time while they wait for the bus, or perhaps they're already on the bus and they've got one minute to peruse your website before their stop arrives - either way, time is of the essence and long loading times will cause frustration and quite possibly prompt people to try one of your competitors instead.
If you're not sure how to boost your website's loading speeds, try typing your URL into Google's PageSpeed Insights
Space out your clickable elements.
Tapping a smartphone screen with your finger is a less refined, less accurate action than a mouse click, so if there's something on your website that you want lots of people to click on (e.g. a 'Contact Us' button, a hyperlink within a paragraph of text), you'd better make it easy for them. In order to meet the basic standard for mobile-friendliness, all clickable elements on your website should be:
- A good distance from all other clickable elements
- Big enough to tap with ease
Crowding a whole bunch of links into a small space increases the likelihood that users will click the wrong link by accident. Giving your clickable elements a tiny 'click zone' that requires hyper-accurate tapping increases the likelihood that users will need multiple attempts in order to land a successful click. Both of these outcomes are very frustrating for the user and will seriously damage their experience of your site, so make sure your clickable objects are large and reasonably far apart.
Make the user's journey short and simple.
Think of your website as a running track. The end user is a sprinter, and they cross the 'finish line' whenever they complete a conversion on your site ('a conversion' being the thing that you ultimately want users to do on your website - this could mean making a purchase, requesting a quote, subscribing to your newsletter, et cetera). Between the user and the finish line are a series of hurdles: actions that they must complete and hoops they will have to jump through in order to reach the conversion stage.
Your mission is to make those hurdles as few and as minuscule as possible. Make that running track as short and as unobstructed as you possibly can!
Here are a few example of 'hurdles' and how you can help your mobile users to overcome them with ease:
- Finding the right page. The first 'hurdle' for most visitors to a website is working out where to find the thing they're looking for. You can minimise this hurdle with a clear site layout and intuitive navigation (i.e. not too many menu options, self-explanatory category names).
- Entering payment details. This is a huge hurdle on some ecommerce websites - entering your credit card number and billing address and so forth is a tedious, time-consuming task, especially when you're using a touchscreen rather than a computer keyboard. Minimise this hurdle by using an online wallet service like PayPal or allowing users to create accounts and save their payment details for future purchases.
- Entering contact details. Even if you're not selling anything through your website, the inevitable 'fill out this form' stage can still be a big hurdle for users en route to a conversion. Whether you're encouraging users to send a message, request a quote / call back / free sample, or sign up for something, they will always be forced to painstakingly tap in their details; however, you can minimise this hurdle by only asking for information that is crucially important. For example, why ask for someone's postcode, telephone number and date of birth if all you really need is a name and an email address?