Best Website Design Practices for Mobile Devices
With the invention and popularization of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, web developers now have a few more things that they need to consider when it comes to accommodating the needs of those with smaller screen sizes. For the average website, simply formatting everything to fit into the smaller confines of a phone would seem to be enough, while tablets can handle most full-size websites just fine. However, in order for things to work as optimally as possible, the best website design for mobile devices would be to make a whole new user interface that plays to their strengths; that is, extremely pixel dense and equipped with touch screens instead of mice.
Perhaps the most important aspect of good mobile web design is whether the user can efficiently navigate the site without having to jump through any hoops. Ideally the experience should mimic a native smartphone/tablet app as closely as possible; if you observe the behavior of native apps, you’ll notice that things like horizontal scrolling and interactions other than swiping up and down are kept to a minimum. When someone is reading your content on a small screen, it’s most convenient for them if they can simply scroll up and down and do swipe gestures to see everything. If your website requires that they use both hands in order to view the normal flow of content, this would be sub-optimal design. However, viewing single images (for instance) is a perfectly acceptable use of two hands for the case of pinch-zooming and such.
Buttons and Controls
Something that should become apparent when using a touch screen is that the size of a finger is much thicker and far less precise than a normal mouse cursor. Thus, user interface elements such as buttons, post entries, text, and so on, should all be of sufficiently large size so as to prevent accidental taps/clicks. But more importantly than size is the density of your user interface. If you have too many buttons packed into one space, it can be far too easy for the user to press the wrong button. In such a case, it’s good to consolidate dense button forests into a single dropdown menu of some kind. It may require two taps in order to do the same thing, but this is offset by the fact that the user will not have to aim so precisely in order to tap the button that they want.
Things like the look of your icons, UI element spacing, your choice in fonts, etc, all go a long way in making your website look more professional and natural on a mobile device. In order to match a native experience as closely as possible, you should try to match the font of the mobile device’s operating system, or else use a plain, sans-serif font. You will want to keep in mind that your content will be read on small devices with high-density pixel displays. Make the font too small, and it’ll be hard to read without manually zooming (which is a no-no for normal content flow).
Make every effort into appropriately sizing content as well as giving ample whitespace between distinct sections of your content. This kind of rule applies to more than just mobile design, but it’s still an important point to keep in mind. When your users realize that you’ve put a lot of thought into how your mobile design works, they’ll start coming back for more and using your site as an example of some of the best website design for mobile devices.
This isn’t absolutely required, but it’s nice to give the user some options as to how your website displays on their mobile device. For instance, they may want to change the font size without going into their browser settings, or they simply want to view the normal desktop site if they happen to like it a bit more than the mobile version. You also need to handle the case of a phone being rotated into landscape mode instead of the usual portrait mode; this may not even require you to change your content’s styling and formatting, but just keep in mind the difference in horizontal screen space between the two modes.
Putting some thought into your mobile design is one of the most important decisions that you can make, especially since the consumption of media as well as Internet browsing are very quickly moving on to devices that you can hold in your hand. Obviously desktops and laptops will still be around for a long time to come, but keeping up with the trends happening in portable electronics will allow you to stay one step ahead of the curve and give your website that extra competitive edge. You’ll find that it’ll very much be worth it to invest the time into making sure that everyone’s viewing experience is as top-notch as possible.