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Mobile Web Design – Introduction to Best Practices

Today in 2013, there are close to 2 billion mobile users around the globe. The end is not in sight so it is difficult to say where things will level off. But the most important point for each business is to take care of their share of the market. By doing so, businesses engaged in mobile marketing can greatly improve their ROI with effective mobile web design. But there is much more to this…

It is not enough to merely have a mobile site or outsource web design for the mobile platform. Successful mobile marketing depends on testing and optimizing. The initial site design is only the beginning because ongoing efforts with optimizing for conversions entails testing design.

The big curve ball with mobile designs is related to the minimalistic design suggestion. This is a distinction with calling it a requirement because businesses are only forced to comply with the platform. Mobile sites are limited due to the nature of the small screen and less powerful resources in mobile devices. However, the one exception is the tablet which is larger than a phone. But for now we are mainly talking about mobile phones.

A business that is new to mobile marketing has to shift perspective rather than learn entirely new technical disciplines. New approaches to design will be limited, though, and this is where some businesses struggle.

There is diversity across mobile platforms which calls for expanding knowledge and application to a mobile website. Here are a few important areas to consider for mobile web design:

1. Screen size resolution
2. Interface
3. Operating system
4. Platform specific hardware and software

One of the most important considerations is with operating system. The ideal approach is to optimize for all of them but this may not be possible. Right now there are about seven major operating systems that are reasonably prevalent. However, any business can examine their audience and make some good general assumptions.

1. Business audience – Optimize for BlackBerry and Windows Mobile.
2. Young audience – Optimize for Android and iPhones users.

Optimize for the above at a minimum and then work to add more operating systems to your coding.

Mobile websites have to be very lean and include only what is necessary. A well-known tenet of web design is clean navigation with minimal clicks required by the user. The same applies to mobile but the need for this is much more critical. This relates to the architecture for your mobile site and can be included in a well-organized site menu. Your information and category structures need to be determined after careful analysis.

Avoid horizontal scrolling with mobile site designs – at all costs. The super-small screen size makes this a complete hassle for users, and it is a great way to decrease conversions. Think vertically with the layout of all your mobile pages. In fact, design with best use of vertical space and this will put you on the right track. And avoid using tricks with text and/or tabs to squeeze the most out of your pages. These techniques will be rejected by users and it all comes down to space, time, impatience, and sound usability practices.

Just as with regular websites, you can learn from established mobile sites, too. After you have read and studied, then create a wireframe to work from as a template. You can even reverse engineer wireframes from optimally designed sites. Then it is a simple task of choosing the best template and getting started. But the most important learning point from this is understanding what is going on.