Hello & Welcome to Week 10 of Rachael’s blog. This week’s blog will be an introduction into the differences between mobile and desktop web design – Usability is different when you’re designing for use on a mobile device. Although the basic principles are still the same, there are some significant differences about mobile that make for challenging new usability problems. The most obvious difference when designing mobile screens vs desktop screens is that mobile screens are very small. One way to deal with this is to leave things out – but which parts do you leave out? One approach was mobile first, meaning to create the mobile version of a website first based on the features and content that are most important to your users. From there, you can add on more features and content to create the desktop/ full version. This approach is great because hard work goes into determining what was really essential, and what people needed most.
On the other hand, some take a different approach and want to include everything in their mobile design, as it is on a desktop. If you’re going to include everything, you have to pay attention to prioritizing. For example, things that you want to use in a hurry or frequently should be close at hand. Everything else can be a few taps away, but there should be an obvious path to get to them. Typically, on mobile sites, people will be tapping more, but that’s ok. With a small screen, this is inevitable. In this case, as long as a user can feel confident that what they want is further down the screen or behind a link or button, they will keep going.
A few more differences to note:
- There are no cursors / hovers on mobile devices – you must find a way to replace them
- Performance on mobile devices can vary widely once a user is outside of a wifi zone
- Usability testing on mobile devices is complicated because tools we rely on for desktop testing don’t exist yet for mobile devices
As time goes on, it’s become clear that mobile is where we are going to live in the future. Although there are a few differences between mobile and desktops, new technologies are going to be introduced all the time. The most important thing you can do is to just make sure usability isn’t being lost in the shuffle, the best way to do this is by testing.