For years, website design has focused on producing sites that work primarily on ‘static units’ such as desktop PCs and laptops. However, the Internet is going through a transitional phase, brought about by the explosion in popularity of ‘mobile browsers’ – those who use hand held devices such as Smart phones to browse the Internet. So if the user profile is changing, is your website promoting itself on mobile browsers as well as static units? And what’s the difference between the two?
Mobile users – a new website design challenge
The biggest challenge that website design specialists face with the onset of mobile browsing is the limitations it imposes onto a site. Traditionally, websites had a certain amount of ‘wriggle room’ in their design concepts. Pages weren’t limited by the size of the screen or download capability. However, smaller units means smaller page sizes, so everything that goes into a website these days has to translate equally well when viewed using a smaller device. That means that every part of the page has to work, and work hard.
SEO is of paramount concern for both static and mobile browsing. The principles are essentially the same – keywords and copy are all fundamental in getting a good page ranking with the search engines, and the higher up the rankings you are the more chance you have of catching that all-important passing traffic.
The right picture can represent a thousand words
For mobile browsing, speed is of the essence – both download speeds and how quickly the browser can get the information that they are looking for on the site page. Whereas with static browsing web design had the luxury of being able to include a few eye-catching fancy graphics, mobile browsing dictates that a cleaner, less ‘fussy’ page is more desirable. Using the right visual inclusions can help enormously, saying in one image what it might take 300 words of copy to portray. But use the wrong image and the message can be lost in a sea of pointless images that don’t bear any relevance to either your products or the user’s search criteria. Present them with a cluttered page that has no relevance and they’ll quickly bounce to a competitor’s site.
Social media – the next step
Website design also has to take into account the changing ways in which people search the web. Social media and personal recommendations are now hugely important, with a comment on Twitter potentially generating as much interest in a website as any listing on Google. How does your website integrate with social media platforms? Can people browsing Facebook and Twitter on their Smart phone link to your main site easily? All of these factors have to be taken into account, as after email, browsing and social networking are the two most popular uses for the Internet, particularly on mobile browsers.
Don’t forget your static users
But before you are tempted to focus solely on mobile browsing capabilities and web design, don’t forget your static users. While a quick browse on the bus on your Smart phone may introduce users to a site, many still prefer to revisit the site once they are at their PC or laptop. Good website design should still be attractive to visitors on a larger format device. Talk to your web design team and if necessary, think about optimising your website so that it appeals to both types of users.