Developing for mobile is about more than just screen size
It is very easy to fall into the trap of thinking that as long as your website adjusts its layout nicely to smaller screens you've got a well-optimised mobile site. The below summarises why this is not the case and suggests various important considerations we need to make when developing mobile-optimised sites.
Mobile is all about usage and not form. Mobile web users are often exactly that – mobile. They could be out with colleagues or friends, quickly wishing to find out what time the last train leaves. Their main focus is not on your site, rather they want to easily and quickly perform a very specific, and often small, task on your site.
In addition to the mobile user's state of mind, their environment can be highly unpredictable. This can limit the user's ability to focus on and understand your site's content. Ambient lighting can be dark indoors or bright outdoors. They could be in a private setting or surrounded by people on a crowded train. All these have a profound effect on how users access your site.
It is also very important to consider mobile device characteristics. Unlike desktop computers or laptops, mobile devices have a limited or virtual keyboard, use finger pointing, have a small screen that can rotate, have less capable CPU/GPU and smaller storage.
Beyond this, mobile users expect mobile-optimised websites to adapt to their physical circumstances. They want sites to consider things like time of day or where they are. For instance, if out shopping looking for a particular store, they want the nearby stores listed first.
So what should you consider when mobilising your content?
1. Who is using your mobile site?
What is their age, what industry do they work in? This helps you shape features that you make available.
2. What are your users doing when they get to your mobile site?
What is most likely the action they are trying to complete? On a desktop airline site this could be to find out about travel destinations, whereas in the case of an airline mobile site this would probably be to see if a flight is on schedule, or to check in.
3. Where is the mobile site being accessed from?
What is the user's location? For instance, a bank's mobile site might show a user where the nearest ATMs are.
4. When is your mobile site being accessed in terms of date and time of day?
For example, if a bank branch is already closed, the mobile site could suggest the nearest ATM instead or methods of contacting them after hours.
5. Why are the users coming to your site?
Consider individual circumstances. Some users may only want to see short excerpts of the latest news stories, whilst others might want longer in-depth articles. Give your user the ability to customise the site based on their circumstances in order to maximise user satisfaction.
6. How are users accessing your site?
Is their device highly capable? Then maybe provide streaming audio and video to them. If not, plain text might have to do. If a device supports client-side storage your site might be able to reduce network traffic by caching content locally on the device. By detecting the capabilities of the user's device, your site can customise the richness of the experience it provides.
The above are a great starting point of things to consider when planning and developing a mobile-optimised website. And it's worth it – the better optimised your mobile site, the more satisfied your users will be with their experience and the more likely they will come back for more.
Source: This article is based on a tutorial provided by lynda.com.Marie