Technology is an ever emerging field and the latest buzz out there is our good old Mobile Phones. These tiny devices which were originally supposed to be a solution to stay connected while in field are creating an altogether new business opportunity now days. By December 2010 there will be 2.7 billion active mobile phones and one cannot ignore the presence of these in different industry verticals. Whether it is a bank, financial institution, gaming, retail, media or entertainment, mobiles are being used for anything and everything, including but not limiting to advertising, marketing, shopping and promotions.
Having just a web presence for a company is no more sufficient as more than 5% of web traffic comes from mobile. Thus it’s more than required to have the website optimized for the mobile phones. Companies are using this opportunity to draw more traffic to their websites by going mobile but there are number of different mobile phones and platforms available so website designers need to detect the handset limitations and try to provide best customer experience.
When developing a mobile optimized and/or mobile specific website there are few things a developer should take care of. However, before jumping to the actual development there are some general aspects as well. For example, you need to know who your target customer is, targeted regions, what type of devices they use. Checking mobile sales statistics for the particular region will help you to know the most frequently used type of mobile handsets and that should be taken in consideration before planning the development (For example iphone is the hottest toy for US market and it is important that your website work well on it if the targeted consumers are from USA) Here, we will talk about top 5 tips which can help you to improve the usability and add value to your mobile website.
1. Compatibility is must - There are several types of Operating Systems, DB, Hardware and Web browsers. These different versions, configurations, resolutions, and Internet connection speeds impact the website on a particular handset. Therefore a compatibility test is very important. To deal with different screen sizes, device capabilities and orientations, you should either read the metadata and determine the device specs or use some third party service which automatically handles this part for you (read and determine the device specifications). Appropriate mark-up language like WML 1.1, XHTML should be used to optimize and customize the dynamic content. Flash and java script should be avoided as they don’t run on all mobile browsers. That been said, trends and technology change with lightening speed so its not necessary if something is true for current scenario, will be relevant after 1 month as well and thus constant updates should be planned accordingly. You might probably need to divide the phones in some categories as per their specs, most importantly screen size. According to the classification, various image sets and templates can be used for that particular class of devices.
2. Finding that right balance – On the functional aspect, resize the images so they take lesser time in loading and then link it to the original image somewhere else for more details. High resolution images should be avoided. Few key areas must be focused on, instead of several headers, footers and side links. Customer generally comes looking for a “contact” point (Phone #) so it should be placed in the header. Try to minimize the scrolling and it should follow one direction rule. Put a footer link to your “Full Site” on every page. Make sure that this link takes the user to the full version of the exact page that they’re currently browsing. If background images are used test the readability of the content. Though most of the sites are targeted at the global audience but if you are working on a country or region specific mobile web application, it will always be a good idea to research about the market trends and optimize the experience as per the devices with largest market share.
3. Oops, I don’t know where to take you next - Links must not be broken, user should be taken to the exact page he/she is searching for rather than the homepage. Purple and blue color should be avoided as it can be confused with the hyperlink. Lengthy URL’S are difficult to type and must be avoided. Content for mobile website should be specific and device compatible. Pages must not be too short or too long. A cluttered page will make it difficult to view the image and harder to read the content. Page should deliver just the right content for which customer has come looking for.
4. Oh what was the address once again – Domain name for the site should be similar to the original domain name. It will reap more benefits in advertising and making the site popular. Though the site address can be similar across the desktop and mobile platforms but you need not to replicate the functionality between these. As obviously, desktop browsers are very mature and capable as compared to their mobile counter parts and thus only most relevant sections should be covered under the mobile site. Always remember, if a customer has a good experience at your mobile website he/she can always return to the site on desktop.
5. Nothing beats a real device - Once the site is functionally complete, test using some device emulators but end of the day, emulators provide preliminary means of testing. Instead of relying 100% on them, subsequent efforts should be made to test on real devices and specific software. Choosing the devices with Wifi will be preferred as most carriers cache pages as you develop which makes the develop/test/develop/test cycle very slow, and Wifi gets around this. Deviceanywhere makes a great alternative if you don’t have several devices lying around.
So guys keep these simple things in mind and come rock the m website world