Six mistakes to avoid in mobile usability

by Alexander Baxevanis on 31 October 2009

Some say that the future is one mobile device, meaning that Internet companies (particularly companies that specialise in online shopping, e-commerce and social networking) are having to establish mobile website platforms in order for their service to be available to people who are on the move.

With restrictions in what can be achieved when surfing the Internet on a mobile, web developers have to become a lot savvier when it comes to establishing mobile websites for their business. This article looks at some of the most common mistakes that people make when they are giving their business a mobile presence.

1. Not adapting to the mobile platform

For those who are brand-new into the world of mobile websites, it can be a deterrent to grapple with the completely different rules that are associated with making a portable service usable, practical and purposeful. As a result, one of the principle mistakes that mobile web developers make is designing a mobile website as if designing for a normal website. That is, relying on add-ons like Flash and video content. Even the most functional phones, like the iPhone, cannot handle Flash content properly yet, meaning that your ground-breaking animations on your mobile website may not get the reception you want.

2. Missing the point

Another big mistake that many mobile web developers make is creating a mobile platform for a product that serves no purpose. Conducting a survey with your customer base to see if they would find a mobile phone platform viable can be important in giving you a purpose to establish a portable presence. Additionally, finding out what your customers would like most from a mobile service can enable you to enjoy success in your efforts.

The mobile website equivalents to many websites can be disappointing at times because they eliminate the services that any users of would use most. Serving your customers what they need in the most practical and usable way will be likely to boost your business' success in the long run, as many people stray away from the desktop computer.

YouTube have got it right - but can you get it right too?

3. Failing to ask the target audience

Any web developer's objective is to make sure that the product or service they offer (and the website it is presented on) is as approachable as possible. Opinion on how usable a website is can vary, and this is why not testing a mobile website on its target audience can be a disastrous mistake to make. In this recession, it can be painstaking to pour time and money into a project which doesn't receive good feedback from the customers that you are trying to reach. Ensuring you are fully in the loop with what the public wants can make your mobile website a usable success.

4. Over complicating things

The concept of keep it simple, stupid (KISS) is another one that it is highly worthwhile to bear in mind whilst creating a mobile web platform. Try to make sure that you are using the most up-to-date software to craft your mobile website, using access keys wherever possible to make link navigation easier. It is essential to ensure that you limit the hyperlinks on every page to no more than ten (meaning you can have an access key for each respective one). Additionally, prioritising them and laying the links out in a simple and accessible way can only add to your mobile website's appeal.

5. Bloated sites

More is less with mobile surfing. With many people who even have 3G connections struggling to cope with slow Internet connection speeds and a limited bandwidth allowance, mobile websites with a large amount of pictures can be nothing short of disastrous. With mobile surfing comes impatience, meaning that a good architecture of your content is essential. Many people only go online on the mobile if they have a purpose, meaning that your users will be likely to want to obtain the information they need as quickly and easily as possible.

6. Jumping in without research

Lastly, don't go into building a mobile website blind. Conducting your research to see what your competitors are doing can be a great place to start, noting down the elements of mobile websites which you like the most. Combining the elements of mobile websites which you like can allow you to get a website which you believe will be the friendliest service that you could provide to your customers. There are a variety of software packages which can be extremely accommodating for web developers who are looking to boost the usability of their mobile websites, and taking the initiative to research can allow you to go far.

Conclusion

The list of things that you can do to be successful in the mobile world is endless, and these things are usually the most simple too. A fine example of this can be by registering a '.mobi' domain for your mobile website, with as simple a name as possible. Sometimes, inputting text into a mobile phone can be far from ideal, with the smallest and the simplest of domains likely to get more hits than those that are more long-winded.

If you have a lot to say, you are more than likely to find that you will need to spread out your content over a variety of smaller screens. Incentivising your readers to continue reading onto the next screen of text is essential in order for you to keep your user base captivated, as reading a lot of content on a limited display can be incredibly challenging.

For those who are new to the concept of the mobile web, there is a lot of support which can be obtained through the Internet and through literature which can bring you relatively up-to-date with the ever-changing world of portable Internet navigation. Take the time to establish a good architecture for your mobile website, and update it as new opportunities arise (like 4G connections which are due to hit Asia later this year) to ensure that your site evolves with the technology.

This article was written by the team at Emobilephonedeals.co.uk, a leading mobile phone site that features a UK-wide selection of contract mobile phone deals from the nation's top retailers as well as industry news and reviews.

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