Mobile browsing takes into account a whole new set of considerations when it comes to web design. While it’s important to think of the technical elements of responsive web design, it’s just as important to look at it from a users perspective.
Responsive web design has revolutionized the mobile browsing experience. Users no longer have to zoom, twist, rotate, pan and double click on parts of the page in order to see and read it sufficiently. Responsive web design adapts a websites layout and design to specifically meet the needs of the users’ device, whether that is a mobile, tablet or desktop computer. Of course, the keyword here is ‘responsive’, meaning that the designs have no absolutes, fixed sizes or dimensions. Sites are designed using percentages and ratios, so that they can adapt to screen size, browser width and more.
However, with this relatively new concept of web design comes some new difficulties. Designers and programmers must think differently, put themselves in the mind of the user and simplify. The simplification process can be complicated. Removing and reorganizing links, menus, buttons and more, without taking too much away from the functionality of the site is a difficult task. One of the most important areas of simplification is in the navigation.
Your sites navigation needs to guide and help the user, not confuse or frustrate them. Consider adding the main navigation below your content, using nested or expandable navigation, clear text links and adequate spacing. Users should be able to easily click buttons, without overlapping onto other ones, scroll down the page without accidentally clicking on links, and most importantly, find what they are looking for, both fluidly and intuitively.
For successful responsive web design, we need to put ourselves in the role of the user. Consider the most intuitive design and navigation for a small screen. For example, most users will browse online websites with just one finger; their thumb. This means that your most important functions, such as the navigation menu, need to be within thumbs reach and not too finicky. Buttons need to be large enough and spaced adequately apart to avoid selecting the wrong thing.
Another crucial factor of RWD is remembering that browsing on a mobile device is very different to browsing on a desktop computer. Mobile devices are, well, mobile. People use them on the move, meaning that they do not always receive the users’ full attention. Users may be talking to someone, watching TV or even ordering a coffee while they are browsing your site on their mobile device. This ‘multi-tasking’, or the lack of focus in mobile browsing is not to be overlooked. If the layout is too complicated, users will undoubtedly make mistakes, causing frustration and discouraging them from using your product or service in the future. You do not want to force your users to make mistakes on your website.
Mobile websites that are easy to use are a joy to use. If users can effectively browse and perform tasks on your website, while ordering a coffee or talking to a friend, they will have a positive experience and are more likely to return to your site. With these simple considerations, you can transform a users mobile browsing experience from mediocre to flawless, setting you apart from the competition.