Internet traffic on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets now accounts for more than half of overall volume, and if your website doesn't present a useful and attractive experience to mobile users you'll be missing out on a large amount of traffic. Where once it was necessary to build entirely separate sites for mobile users, to take into account the severe limitations of the then available technology, modern day mobiles are much more capable and can deal with most modern standards.
However, there are several different design considerations that need to be borne in mind to appeal to the average mobile visitor, and failing to take note can be very damaging to traffic levels and ultimately sales. Here are the top five mistakes to avoid.
The days when mobile devices varied widely in their website rendering are hopefully far in the past, and with modern smartphones there's little excuse to release a site that displays badly or not at all on the vast majority of devices. However, the only way to be sure is to test, test, and test some more - ideally on physical handsets, but there are also several websites such as Browserstack which provide comprehensive emulation options covering the whole spectrum of devices, browsers, and operating systems.
Information Overload and Screen Clutter
Despite the impressive advances in display technology over recent years, it's a simple physical fact that smartphone screens are smaller than regular monitors. They may boast ever higher resolutions, but trying to pack too much into this restricted space just makes for confusion. Added to this, many mobile users access sites while on the move, with less time to digest information, and so it's vital to reduce the amount of clutter and get straight to the point.
Techniques such as Responsive Web Design (RWD) allow the selective removal of less important data depending on screen size, helping to ensure that the most vital content is shown without the distraction of extraneous information or purely decorative graphics. It's also a good idea to pare back site navigation for mobile users, making it easy to reach the most important parts of the content without presenting bafflingly detailed menus on that cramped screen.
Going Overboard With Forms
No matter the platform you're aiming a website at, it's good design practice to minimize the number and size of forms you require visitors to complete. Little turns a surfer away more quickly than having to spend time entering information for no obvious benefit, and this goes even more so for visitors using mobile devices where 'fat finger syndrome' can make information entry frustrating and slow.
Avoid this by limiting form usage as much as possible. For example, if your site requires a log-in for full functionality, enable this via existing social networks with a single click. If you really must use forms, then make them as easy to navigate as possible by ruthlessly removing all inessential elements, and using functions such as geo-location to pre-fill as many fields as possible.
Overcomplication of the Interface
Going further with simplifying design, the increased complexity of modern websites has led to many adopting user interfaces that are almost application-like in their functionality. Even on systems with large screens and physical keyboards, there can be compatibility and usability problems unless the design is very well executed. On small devices, this approach is even more risky.
However, there is a solution. Modern mobile operating systems come with a full set of familiar, well-thought-out widgets that can be used to design an app that will be compatible and usable, so why not take advantage? If your website experience requires an app-like interface, consider cutting to the chase and writing a real app, linking to it from your standard website. There's a balance to be struck between turning away users who might be reluctant to download an app, and providing a satisfying experience for everyone, but if possible it's good to at least provide the choice.
Not Seizing the Moment
Many mobile surfers use their devices in short bursts, briefly checking out a site before completing their surfing or transaction later in a more comfortable setting. Ensuring that a visitor has a reason to revisit should be a high priority for any site, but especially so when it comes to mobile users given their short attention span. Make their research easy, but also offer a way to encourage them to come back, such as signing up for a genuinely useful mailing list offering free gifts, discounts for downloading your app, or any other way you can think of to grab their attention and prompt a second visit. If you don't attain some level of conversion on their first visit, they likely won't be back.
It's a varied internet these days, and it's fast becoming the case that the once-standard visitor using a desktop computer is in a minority. Every site should have a solid mobile strategy in place unless the developers are happy to turn away large amounts of traffic. It's never too late to start the process, and taking note of the above points will provide a good foundation for your site's future mobile growth.