Back in 2008, traffic from mobile devices accounted for just 0.51% of all internet traffic in Europe. As of May 2013 that figure had risen to 8.13%, a rise of nearly 1500% in five years (source: StatCounter). And that’s just on average – on some of the sites that we manage for our clients visits from phones and tablets make up over 20% of the total. Has your site gone mobile yet?
Mobile websites: do we need them?
The displays used for today’s most modern mobile phones and tablets boast a staggering amount of pixels, often more than you have on your laptop computer. But regardless of the amount of pixels we have to play with, the physical size of these devices means that a “one size fits all” approach to web design is not appropriate any more. The best selling phones over the last few months are the Galaxy S III with a screen diagonal of 4.8″ and the iPhone 5 at just 4″ – quite a difference from even a small laptop. Also, browsing on a touchscreen is a very different experience to using a keyboard and mouse.
Designing for the mobile web
There are a lot of things to think about when designing for the mobile web. There are the graphic design questions: fonts, images and layouts may all need to be changed to work well on a smaller screen, and elements may need to be more widely spaced to make the site “finger friendly”. Then there are the technical aspects: should your mobile site be on a separate URL? How easy is it to move from one version to the other? Is all your content appropriate for mobile use or would it slow the user’s phone to a crawl ? And what about the site structure? Mobile users may well want something different from your site compared to desktop visitors. A great example of this is a retail chain with a number of branches – mobile users are much more likely to be looking for store location and opening times than desktop users so you might want to put this to the fore on your mobile site.
What about tablets – how are they different?
Tablets such as the iPad pose an interesting question. The screen size is usually much larger than a mobile phone but still relatively small, and all the issues of finger friendliness still apply. We do not recommend redirecting tablet users to your mobile site – this usually gives very poor results. Instead we would recommend either sending tablet users to the full site or developing a tablet optimised site like we have here on Refined Practice.
A tablet optimised site is certainly not required in all cases. Often this will depend on the design of your desktop site – some work on a tablet just fine, others really do not!
Landscape or portrait?
As well as the physical screen size issue, mobile devices might be used in either portrait mode (like the page of a book) or landscape mode (like a conventional computer screen). These are quite different form factors, and a good mobile web designer will take this in to account. If you take a look at this site on a mobile device you’ll see that the design used in both the mobile and tablet versions changes as you rotate the screen from portrait to landscape.
We can help
Hopefully this article has given you a bit of an insight into the issues you need to take in to account when making your site mobile friendly. There are no hard and fast rules – every site is different. Should you choose to work with Refined Practice we will help guide you through all the issues and create a mobile site that works well for you and your clients. Why not contact us today to find out more?