How are mobile devices changing the web?
The way use the internet has changed. Over the past few years, we are stopped heading tour desks to check something online: we just pull out a smartphone or maybe a tablet. Just as laptop came to outnumber desktop PCs, now mobile devices are starting to take over from laptops. Stats very depending on who you are talking to, but it look like approximately a third of traffic to websites now comes from mobile devices – and that number is going up all the time. What does that mean for web developers? Well it means their job just got a bit harder. One of the trickiest things to figure out, as a developer, is how to create a website that will work well on a range of different devices. It was bad enough when you just had to consider an array of different browsers when designing a website – because something that looks great in Firefox might not look as swish in Internet Explorer or safari, for example – but now that so much traffic is coming from mobile devices, developers have a whole new level of complexity to consider. For starter, while laptop and desktop monitors tend to be landscape-oriented, mobile screen are usually held portrait-style. That might be good news, in a way since sometimes content ‘below the fold’ can be ignored, but on the other hand, sites with wider design might end up with text that is too small to rea. And the definition of ‘too small to read’ is ever-shifting too, since some people might be looking at you site on a 4.7’’ or others are using 9.7’’ screen. But anyone who is decided designing for mobile devices is too tricky to be worth bothering with is about to get a wake-up call, because Google has decided mobile friendliness is an important consideration in web design. It is so important, in fact, that next time Google rejigs its search algorithms, mobile friendliness is on the list of important criteria. If your site does not cater to the mobile design principles Google reckons it should, you are going to find your search ranking plummeting. And since most people don not clock past the first page of Google search result that could be a serious problem. Making sure your website is mobile-friendly is pretty important, then. Google’s Mobile Site Design Principles includes 25 principles, divided into five sections.
1. Home page and site navigation
Mobile site should have short and clear navigation links, with an easy way to get back to home page, and any important ‘call to action.
2. Site search
A search function should be able and placed somewhere obvious, ideally at the top of the home page. And people are even likely to go through pages of search result on mobile devices then they would be on a desktop, so search result should be relevant.
3. Commerce and conversions
This is the most important bit for websites: you want to make sure it is easy for people to spend their money. Most of us hate signing up for things on our mobiles, so the ability to check out as a guest is useful, as is the ability to use third –party payment systems like PayPal that we are already signed into on our phones. And the ability to save things for later or email them to ourselves to buy when we are back on our main computer is also pretty essential.
4. Form entry
Google found people liked it when forms were easy to fill in, so things like number field that automatically brings up a numerical keypad are handy, as are pop-up calendars for things like date entry. For mobile users, forms should be as simple as possible, asking only for essential info.
5. Usability and form factor
People hate having to use pinch-to-zoom to see details, but at the same time love to be able to see high-res images of things they are considering buying. Also, calling the desktop version the ‘full’ version confuses people, so call it desktop or PC version and people are more likely to use the most appropriate version.
While still retaining a certain amount of scepticism in our hearts, it looks like mobile devices might be a really good things for the future of web design – for users, at any rate.