The Importance of Usability in Mobile Web Design

The Importance of Usability in Mobile Web Design

Microsoft is gunning for the release of its Windows 10 operating system in summer this year, and if there’s one major feature that the firmware has, it is its unified application architecture. Primarily, the company recognizes that there is a demand for people to be able to switch seamlessly and painlessly from a desktop to a handheld device and vice versa. Along the same line, website designers have been, for quite some time now, aiming to provide consumers with a pleasant experience when it comes making sites accessible from any device.

Over the past years, mobile accessibility has become not just a trend but a necessity. With more and more people accessing pages over the Internet, switching from PCs to their handheld devices at any given time, it has become of primary importance that businesses are able to stay ahead or, at the very least, catch up with the demand. And considering how many different kinds of devices there are, from entry-level smartphones to phablets, from tablets to hybrids, from laptops to high-end desktops, not to mention the wide range of screen sizes and resolutions there are, websites need to be able to adjust accordingly.

As NN Group says, “Although there are more smartphone users worldwide than desktop and laptop users, the usability of mobile websites and applications is still well behind the usability of desktop websites.”

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This is not for lack of trying, of course. There are two main approaches that designers use to make sites mobile-friendly. Some websites have a mobile-dedicated version, which is rather “lighter” compared to the full version, making it easy to load and view using handheld devices. In other words, a mobile-dedicated website is primarily a different site with the same content as the full version but is designed and made to cater to mobile platforms. On the other hand, a website that uses responsive Web design adjusts to the screen size as well as the orientation of the device, whether it’s in portrait or landscape.

In talking about the influence of responsive Web design on mobile usability, NN Group mentions that sites have finally come to the realization that the main priority when it comes to mobile is content. This takes precedence over other elements like menus, links, buttons, and the like. The downside is, pages tend to be long and users have to keep on scrolling, although it also mentions several solutions to address this like layering and making use of subsequent pages.

As far as experts are concerned, there are opposing opinions on which approach is better. However, from a visitor’s standpoint, user experience and the usability of the mobile Web design is what matters. Ordinary users often don’t recognize the difference between a site optimized through a mobile-dedicated site or one that has been built to be responsive. What they desire and care about is convenience and the ease of gaining information when and where they want it.

The bottom line is, business owners can’t ignore the fact that to stay ahead, they have to make their website mobile-friendly, and it must be not just a website that can be accessed using handheld devices but one that provides users with a pleasant and informative mobile experience.

Sources
User Experience for Mobile Applications and Websites
Responsive Web Design vs Mobile Sites – Which is Best
The State of Mobile User Experience
The growing importance of mobile website optimization

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