There is no denying the popularity of mobile devices. According to eMarketer, the number of smartphone users across the globe will surpass 2 billion in 2016. More than one-quarter of the world’s population was using smartphones in 2015 and eMarketer estimates that by 2018, over one-third of all consumers worldwide will use a smartphone.
Since mobile devices are light and portable, people are rarely finding themselves without their smartphone. Mobile devices are very convenient to use. So convenient in fact that as of 2015 Google reports that in the U.S. more Google searches are taking place on mobile devices than on computers. Mobile devices have clearly become an important part of our everyday life.
Mobile devices have changed the way we communicate to such an extent that it isn’t unusual for a family that is all within the same house to communicate with each other by sending messages to each other on their mobile devices. As such, businesses need to understand how mobile is different than the previous ways we communicated and adjust accordingly.
Mobile communication is not the same as what businesses previously planned for and not just with regards to the size of our designs. While the physical specifications of mobile devices create different design requirements, the nature of how these devices are used is even a more important consideration. Users feel an emotional connection to their mobile devices that must be accounted for during the design process.
When and where
Anywhere you go you will see mobile phones on people’s desks, in their hands or in their pockets. It’s rare you see someone without their smartphone. According to Deloitte, on average, people in the United States check their phones 46 times per day (as of Dec 2015). That’s up from checking it 33 times per day in 2014. They also found that most of the respondents to their survey said they look at their phones within five minutes of waking up.
Obviously, we tend to use our smartphones a great deal. Whether we are on the subway, shopping in a mall or watching TV, we are often also on our mobile devices and because we tend to use our mobile devices while doing something else, a business’s mobile solutions must take this into account. Users will typically have a variety of distractions while looking at your mobile website or mobile application.
The mobile devices themselves are something that must be considered with respect to the design of your project. With a smaller form factor, we generally expect the content to be simple and uncomplicated. Additionally, you must consider the limited bandwidth and connectivity of mobile devices, because of these considerations it is important that your designs are optimized for quick loading times.
People have different attitudes, behaviors, and priorities while using mobile devices than they did when utilizing desktop or laptop computers. Over the past few years, as people have become more comfortable with mobile devices they have started to feel a newfound sense of control. Users are now more comfortable than ever personalizing their devices and this has changed their expectations.
User-centered design is more important than ever before. No longer can businesses just assume a nice clean design is enough. Often businesses aren’t even aware that their users are having difficulty with their website or mobile apps because they are not performing the necessary research and developing an understanding of their users’ needs and the difficulties they are experiencing.
How mobile affects design
Context, device specifications and user behavior should directly impact all parts of a user-centered mobile design process. From performing user research to design to development and finally testing, these factors must be remembered and influence your solutions.
For instance, consider that most mobile devices are accessed via touch screens. This creates a set of opportunities and constraints unique to mobile design that you don’t experience when designing for other mediums. Not only do we use the screen to view content, but also use it to interact with content. Because of this, designers must consider the device itself to create the best possible user experience.
Everything from the way a user holds their device to the way they touch the screen should be considered during your design process. Touch areas require adequate space for users to be able to accurately press various options. Because of this, it is important to consider what the user needs to achieve and how important that task is. Create a design that allows them to quickly complete their intended tasks. Create touch areas that are big enough to be selected easily without pressing the wrong option and make sure they are in an easy to reach part of the screen. The easier you make it on your users the happier they are going to be.
When it comes to mobile, users think in terms of simple, quick experiences. They want to find out some information or they want to buy something, etc. Two touches and they are done. Because of this, displaying too many options can create indecisiveness. Reducing the number of decisions and actions on any given screen improves user experiences and increases the chances a user will complete the task.
Because of this, you always want to prioritize your content and display what it most important. Evaluate your content and determine if it contains the right information for someone to make a decision and move to the next step. Take the time to think about each step and don’t include too much content on each screen. Only include information that will help a user make an immediate decision and more forward. Some businesses and designers never think about how to lead users to take the next step. They only think about an overall goal of getting a sale or getting a newsletter sign up. However, when designing for mobile you want to consider what decision you want a user to make on that screen and help them get to it as easily as possible.
What is the information necessary to help users take the desired action?
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