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Best practices for mobile friendly website design

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/ESB Professional)

The age of mobile internet is at its peak and mobile phones have literally taken over every aspect of our lives. Customers today, don’t just use their phone for communication or social networking any more. They use it to optimise their lives. From dealing with unexpected hunger pangs to asking for directions, smartphones are the go-to master tool for over 90% of the population. And this is great news for you if you are a business owner.

With majority of people being glued to their smartphones all the time, it has become extremely convenient to connect and broaden your reach. As a business owner, you should be celebrating the smartphone era because you can advertise more than ever before and practically, at any time of the day, with no extra effort. Having said that, do your digital marketing strategies focus on mobile-friendliness? More importantly, are you reachable to your market as much as you should be? Are you following the most recommended mobile design best practices?

The importance of mobile-friendly websites

In order to retain your visitors and attract new ones, you need to have a mobile-friendly website design. The most important tactic to widen the reach of your business is to be available to people on their favourite gadgets- mobile phones and tablets. Here’s why:

  • Every third smartphone user today turns to mobile search as an immediate answer to their query.
  • 69 per cent of smartphone users are more likely to buy from and recommend brands that are mobile-friendly.
  • Customers today have extremely high expectations when it comes to speed. 47 per cent of the online population is not ready to wait longer than 3 seconds for a website to load!

It is the ease of access that matters and if you are not convenient to browse on a phone or tablet, potential customers won’t bother to check if your site loads beautifully on a computer screen. So, how can you ensure that your website is mobile-friendly?

1.            Know that “responsive” is not enough

There is a difference between mobile-optimised responsive website and a mobile-first website. The former refers to a website that automatically resizes to a fit a mobile screen. That doesn’t mean it is optimised for the mobile screen. You would, generally, need to zoom in to read the text and see the pictures clearly. Basically, everything is shrunk to fit into the tiny screen. Definitely, not a good sign.

On the other hand, a mobile-first website is exclusively built for smaller screens. These sites are designed to be consumed on a mobile phone or tablet before they can be viewed on a desktop. These are better in terms of both aesthetics and functionality. Everything fits on the screen perfectly and has a clear destination. Navigation is simpler, information is crisp and to-the-point and all the functions are simplified. That is what you need to aim for.

2.            Keep forms as short as possible

For most websites, however mobile-friendly, forms turn out to be the Achilles heel. You need to remember that the moment you start asking for too much information, it will put off your visitors. The key here, is to keep your forms as short as possible.

Having said that, there are a few points that you could use as a checklist when designing the forms for your site:

  • Streamline the information entry: Only ask for extremely relevant details.
  • Minimise form errors.
  • If you need to include dates, a visual calendar feature can be very helpful.
  • Opt for the simplest input methods for every field in the form.
  • As far as possible, stick to a single browser window instead of redirecting the user to a new page unnecessarily.

3.            Pay attention to typography

If you think large blocks of text will help get the attention of the visitor, you couldn’t be more wrong. Large text can have the counter effect. It is overwhelming and difficult to grasp in one go. Always keep the following in mind:

  • The visitor should be able to comprehend your message without much difficulty.
  • The point of focus should be clear. This is specifically important when using differently sized fonts within a page.
  • Decide and stick to the visual hierarchy even when choosing and using fonts.

In addition to font size, the type of font matters. Fonts should be clear, crisp and as simple as possible. There is a reason why classics are called classics. The user shouldn’t have to spend painful amounts of time trying to decipher a particular typography. Remember that you have a small space to work with- the mobile screen. So, the use of font needs to adhere to certain visual design principles.

4.            Get a competitive edge with Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs)

AMPs are HTML pages that follow a specific format. The biggest advantage of these pages is that they are given the priority in mobile search results. Why? AMPs are extremely fast for mobile users and that is exactly what we all are aiming for. That brings us to the next point in the list of mobile design best practices- speed.

5.            Aim for the lowest-possible loading times

As hinted more than once before, your mobile website will be abandoned if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load! You just cannot afford to go heavy here. And the best way to achieve that is by simplifying your design as much as possible. The lesser number of elements on your site, the higher its speed would be. Unnecessary images and flashing lights are not a good idea when you are trying to build a mobile-friendly website. Simple sites that load quickly also have higher conversion rates.

6.            Display your CTAs clearly

An effective mobile website design needs to have an absolutely obvious set of CTAs. At the same time, you cannot overwhelm the user by incorporating too many calls-to-action on a small screen. Like always, balance is key.

It is also important to know that about 53% of websites have CTA buttons that cannot be spotted by users within 3 seconds. And that is bad. If you focus on this area, you can again have a competitive edge. The CTAs should be easy to spot within a second or two.

7.            Pop-ups are pesky little killers of UX

It is a fact that nobody likes pop-ups. They are irritating pests that disrupt user experience to a great extent. Many users may even close the window and abandon your site when they see a pop-up. So, make sure that you rid your website of these unnecessary hindrances.

There are very simple aspects that often get overlooked when creating amazing products. Incorporating these practices in your mobile website design can help avoid that. The idea is to avoid a decrease in conversion rates on non-desktop devices and keep up with the popularity of mobile internet around the world. Not optimising your content for mobile devices or taking this area of your business lightly can cause a major loss in traffic and of course, conversions. Adhering to simple design principles, logic and practicality are the keys here.

Shaunvir Singh Mahil, Director, Virtual Employee