4 Basic-to-basics Mobile Design Tips

Mobile is synonymous with on-the-go. Users may be in the middle of the Sahara or lying on the couch feeling bored and will still want equal access to the mobile web. Going back to the basics and keeping design criteria simple helps users to take advantage of their mobile impulses no matter where they are.

Consider the User’s Context

Keeping the user and device in context is important. For example, if a user is in a meeting, he will need a lower noise solution than someone in a public setting with a lot of ambient noise. When it comes to social context, work and play need to be separate. Limit social updates at work and limit work updates during play time. In a more personal context, accessibility needs to be in the design mix as well. Design allowances that consider those with imperfect eyesight, hearing, or coordination draw a more complete design picture.

Design for Mobile not Re-purposing the Website

Even though there’s a healthy website or app that’s working great on desktop doesn’t mean that all you need to do is just retool it for your mobile website advertising plan. Mobile has functions that PCs don’t, like GPS, compass, or other sensor-rich functionalities. Designing from the ground up allows you to take full advantage of those opportunities. If your site or ad has a phone number, the click-to-call feature should be active and ready for use. Now, each mobile device group has its own capabilities and limitations.

For design, it’s always best to accentuate the positive instead of downplaying the strengths because another device is limited in that way. If you are designing for a particular device, you know it inside and out, so your design should reflect such an intimate knowledge and connection. Sometimes it’s easy to get carried away and show off just how sophisticated a device or app can be. Keep the user interface simple, intuitive and consistent. Failing to do so will lead to errors and overall frustration, the exact opposite of good mobile web design.

Design for Precise Touch Interaction

Touch tapping and gestures are more than just graphic design features; they’re industrial design necessities. As a designer, you want to remember the touch-target norm which is one centimeter. Anything less and it’s harder to tap precisely. Fingers and thumps are already imprecise tools so it’s a good idea to design with visual feedback. If the user selects the wrong control, it’s fair to let her know what she’s done and give her the chance to correct or continue. Designing for immediate action on contact can lead to many mishaps. It’s tempting to overemphasize gestures by making them the only way to perform and action. They are meant to be used sparingly not exclusively.

Work with Mobile’s Challenges

Small screens, limited battery life, intermittent connectivity, and speeds are all constraints that need to be accommodated. It doesn’t work to fight them because at the end of the day, you have little control over them; work with them to create elegant solutions good design. Pocket calls can be annoying and costly so help the screen discern the difference between intentional and accidental taps and swipes. Visual feedback for connection loss or impeded load times by way of distracting graphics helps users to measure their time and gives them the illusion of control of device control.

One bonus design tip would be to never underestimate the importance of the icon. This simple design element is designed to catch the eyes of customers and visitors in a way that steers them to action. It needs to be colorful, clear and descriptive without being overly clever. Getting this little feature right is worth the investment.

Joe Granados the author

Joe Granados is the owner of WebDevTuts. He is also a web designer & developer who loves to design and develop websites. If you're looking for him you can find him via @webdevtuts

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