I’ve been part of an agency specialising in responsive design since 2011/12. One of the common misconceptions we’ve seen is that getting a site to work on mobile is as simple as
- Rendering the page on a small screen
- Shrinking buttons and CTAs
- Resizing imagery
The more savvy of you may realise that’s far too simple. For instance, what about:
- Text and emphasis selection? Italics, for instance, can be difficult to read on small screens
But there is more to consider. A mobile isn’t just a smaller screen. Its a device that is inherently different to a desktop and as such will have entirely different use cases in different scenarios. All of which place different demands on a user.
The mobile is a device that removes the barrier between the digital and physical world. It therefore interacts with, and is interacted by, the user’s environment far more than a desktop computer.
Mobile users have far more stimuli competing for their attention. Some of them are not critically important – a billboard on the side of a passing bus, a man walking down the street who looks like a user’s friend – but some are unavoidable. For instance, someone calling the mobile phone the user is browsing on. A WhatsApp notification. The bus they are travelling on braking sharply.
The inhernet physicality of the mobile device represents a unique user journey that needs to be considered when designing for mobile. A mobile user may be more easily and completely distracted from your website. So, what happens when they’ve responded to the Facebook chathead that’s appeared over their screen and they return to your site? Will they remember where they were in your checkout, what they were filling out and why? Will they feel inclined to continue filling out a 10-field form just to access your sale preview site? When the raindrops from the bad weather are messing up their touchscreen? Will they want you to send them your leadgen whitepaper as a PDF that renders badly in the browser – or would they rather you sent it as a link to their email for later reference?
Mobile usability should consider the user journey that users have on your site, within other apps in the mobile ecosystem, and also the journey that they are experiencing within the physical world at the same time. Good mobile design has much to consider – but that’s why it is a difficult discipline with few specialists.