With Websites, “Responsive Design” is just the Beginning

Written by: Phillip Nones

With half of all web traffic coming from mobile devices, there’s no question that having a mobile- friendly website is an absolute necessity. Google rewards mobile-friendly sites with higher search rankings, while many web users move between multiple devices and expect a consistently good experience across them all.

To that end, most websites being built today employ “responsive design.” But doing that doesn’t automatically tick all of the boxes in what makes for a rewarding browsing experience. One trap designers can fall into is designing web layouts and content for desktops and then expecting them to scale down properly for smaller screen sizes. That approach doesn’t usually create an intuitive experience on mobile.

Another factor which hobbles many websites is slow-loading mobile pages. Google’s research reveals that the average web page takes nearly 15 seconds to load on mobile screens. That’s five times longer than what’s considered ideal.

What are the implications? As load time goes from 1 to 6 seconds, the probability of viewers navigating away more than doubles. Google penalizes slow
loading times in its mobile search rankings, as well. Clearly, failure to address load times causes a ripple effect of negative repercussions.

And let’s not ignore site navigation itself. It might work perfectly well on desktop screens – but look problematic on smaller screens as it forces viewers to scroll through a lengthy vertical menu in their attempts to find the desired content.

Similarly, positioning a logo, nav-bar, showcase slider and other header information before the main content may look great and work well on larger screens … but when scaled to mobile, users may need to scroll forever before they get to the “meat” – not to mention every page looking identical because the elaborate header content takes up all of the visible space.

And what about those overlays or interstitials that are so important on your desktop? Whether they’re special offers, survey invitations, CTAs or other “can’t miss” content, displaying them on mobile devices can negatively affect the user experience. Instead, use banners to promote such content.

Don’t forget to optimize your website for touch, too. This factor is extremely important because navigation
menus, web forms, CTAs and just about anything else on mobile that can turn casual browsers into potential customers revolves around touch gestures. Make sure people can avoid the frustrations of hitting the wrong thing. Keep in mind how big of a hassle typing on mobile screens is – and design accordingly.

In sum, when designing your responsive website remember that the best mobile sites are the ones that are designed simply– and don’t require the flashy gimmicks of desktop screens to succeed in their mission.

Want to do a reality check? Bring up your website on your mobile unit and pretend you’re visiting for the very first time. You’ll know instinctively if you’re hitting a home run – or dropping the ball – on the UX front.

And one other suggestion: Find the person in your office with the biggest set of thumbs and see how easily he or she is able to interact with your mobile site. That’ll tell you a lot, too.


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