Is your site accessible on a mobile phone? Not yet? Do you think your readers are all still accessing your site only via their PC-based computers? Think again: The number of people who surf the web via their mobile phones has been increasing tremendously in recent times and, whether you like it or not, your web site is going to be no exception to this.
Photo credit: Knitware Blog edited by Daniele Bazzano
"The US is the most tech savvy nation with nearly 40 million Americans - 16% of all US mobile users - using their handset to browse on the move. The UK and then Italy come a close second and third..."
(Source: Nielsen Mobile / BBC)
This is why is so important that you add to the list of key usability questions some of the following:
Can your readers access your web site via mobile phone easily? If you have an ecommerce site, what precautions have you taken so that if your reader loses his connection in the middle of a transaction nothing gets lost?
Ecommerce via mobile phones poses specific usability issues that need to be addressed as priorities if your site provides any type of interaction feature.
The result is the need to address with more attention the design aspects of your mobile-enabled web site as to effectively deal with the specific usability concerns characteristic of the mobile universe, such as the smaller keyboards available to your readers, or the limited size of their screens.
In this article, Alexander Baxevanis provides a detailed list of usability issues that must be addressed by any serious web publisher wanting to reach out to the emerging mobile audience(s).
Since we last wrote about the usability of mobile websites, the rise of the iPhone and other high-end handsets has meant that even more people use the Internet on their phone. (Source: Nielsen Mobile / BBC).
Companies have responded by creating more mobile-optimised websites, some of which now allow people to complete ecommerce transactions on the mobile, instead of simply researching for information.
However, while many people are already comfortable making online purchases using a computer, doing the same through a mobile phone poses unique challenges. These challenges need to be addressed by mobile ecommerce sites.
This article provides best practice guidelines for removing potential barriers between your customers and your mobile ecommerce site.
Having a mobile-optimised site is no use if your customers can't find it.
You should always detect when visitors are accessing your site through a mobile phone, and automatically redirect them to the mobile-optimised version of the site.
Although you may also advertise the link to your mobile site, people may still remember the link to your main site only, or may arrive on your main site through a search engine link.
Ensure that the link to your mobile site is easy to remember and type into a mobile phone. For example:
Mobile internet connections can often be unstable, e.g. when a mobile phone moves into a low signal area or runs out of battery. It's usually not a big issue if this happens while someone is simply consuming information e.g. reading the news.
However, a dropped connection in the middle of a transaction may leave people wondering if the transaction has been completed or frustrated that the information they've entered so far was lost.
While there's not much you can do to improve mobile network coverage, you can mitigate the effects of dropped connections by:
Although high-end smartphones increasingly incorporate a full physical or on-screen keyboard, typing on a mobile phone still isn't as easy as on a computer. Unfortunately, completing an ecommerce transaction often requires a lot of information that isn't always easy to type, such as addresses and credit card numbers.
In order to decrease the chances that customers will drop off at this point, you can mimimise data entry by:
With frequent reports on the news about credit card fraud and identity theft, most shoppers are looking to be reassured that their online transaction will be secure.
While most desktop web browsers prominently highlight secure websites and protect users from visiting fraudulent sites, many mobile browsers are primitive in that respect.
Also, because there are many mobile phones with different web browsers, people haven't yet become accustomed to a certain way of highlighting that a website is secure.
It's a good idea to prominently highlight that your mobile site is secure on the homepage and on pages that ask for sensitive information.
Customers may also feel more comfortable if they don't need to enter any sensitive information because it's already stored in their account, as discussed in the previous point.
Interacting with your customers doesn't stop when they complete a transaction.
A good mobile user experience should extend well into the post-transaction phase, e.g. when customers need to track the goods they ordered or check a booking confirmation. After all, if your customers have chosen to complete a transaction using a mobile phone, they'll likely appreciate following up on this transaction in the same way.
Depending on the nature of the transaction, the following guidelines may apply:
With increasing mobile internet use, it won't be long before your customers will expect to transact with you over their mobile phone. This will take more than simply “downscaling” your existing website to fit in a mobile screen.
Only if you carefully consider the unique challenges and opportunities offered through the mobile channel will you be able to offer your customers a truly mobile user experience.
About the author
Alexander Baxevanis is crazy about usability - so crazy that he works for Webcredible, an industry leading user experience consultancy, helping to make the Internet a better place for everyone. He's very good at information architecture training and extremely talented at eyetracking.Alexander Baxevanis -