Design for success
Top tips to create an effective mobile website

Monday, November 19, 2012

Steve Raubenstine, President & CEO, NetObjects discusses why businesses need a well-designed mobile website with content optimised for browsing on tablets and smartphones.

With 4G technologies debuting across 11 UK cities this month, a new era of mobile communications is upon us. This promises a host of benefits for consumers and business to interact and share content much faster while on the move. The challenge for companies will be to keep pace with increased expectation and deliver an experience that is both engaging and productive.

A mobile website’s success will hinge on its design; an easy-to-use, slick interface can capture the attention of visitors making it easier for your brand to engage and inspire customers in an instant. As explored last month, once you have a strategy in place to maximize your target mobile audience, it is time to concentrate on designing a mobile website that details and promotes your business in an attention-grabbing and effective way.

Spot the difference – desktop vs. mobile websites

When considering the design and content of a mobile website, it’s important to remember that it is not simply an existing desktop website resized for devices with small screens. A mobile website incorporates a snapshot of the key messages, products and identity of your business. Desktop websites are usually viewed on larger screens, so they can afford to have more content that can be quickly and effortlessly navigated with the precision afforded by a mouse. Smartphones and tablets sacrifice this precision for easy mobility and touch-driven navigation, so a desktop-like website packed with content would be time consuming and awkward to browse quickly and concisely. The best starting point to create a functional mobile website is to develop a simple, clean layout.

The foundations of a good site structure

Easy navigation can be achieved by ensuring the site is no more than three web pages deep. With three layers or less, a visitor can quickly navigate back and forth to access the content they require. Too many layers delays this process by creating additional steps, which can overburden the small processors found in mobile devices. This can slow down a hurried visitor with limited time to browse during a short commute or break. A homepage button on every page will allow visitors to easily return to the website’s main page, further facilitating easy access to content while browsing.

In order to swiftly and simply convey your business’ products, services and key messages, text content will need to be neatly displayed in short ‘scannable’ sections; large blocks of text should be avoided as viewing text-heavy pages compressed onto a small screen quickly becomes impractical and unattractive. The same applies to pictures and branding; choose a few dynamic, well-shot photos of your products and avoid filling a web page with too many logos which should be visible enough to draw the visitor’s attention but still remain discreet and unobtrusive. The borders and background of the mobile website should also reflect your brand’s colors and personality. Cluttered text, complex navigation and poor design will frustrate potential customers causing them to start their search over.

Keeping content ‘lite’

Information contained on the web pages needs to be clear and concise to help visitors easily absorb your website’s content. Instead of paragraphs of lengthy product and business details, focus should be put on the quality and not quantity of information that you are trying to convey. To this end, content needs to be condensed into concise, bite-sized chunks of information conveyed via short, sharp soundbites, bullet-points and sentences.

The maxim, ‘a picture paints a thousand words’, should certainly be borne in mind when considering the visual content of a mobile site. An interesting photograph of your product accompanied by a brief caption can effectively give mobile visitors a brief overview of the product. Videos should also be considered; occupying the same space, but with the ability to communicate more information faster, videos are a rich and growing marketing resource.

Success can be found in attention to detail and that is certainly true when it comes to design. With a slick, streamlined design you will have a strong foundation to further develop a successful mobile website through exploring social networking integration, expanded functionality and intelligent analytics, helping propel your business forwards within the rapidly evolving mobile space.

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