User experience design is hardly a novel discipline. However, with the rise of adaptive, responsive, and other forms of mobile-centered design, the question of finding the sweet spot between performance and experience has never been more relevant.
This article will focus on some crucial factors to consider when designing a responsive and overall high-quality experience.
A separate mobile website will renter faster but will likely cost more to build and maintain. Conversely, a responsive website is simpler and quicker to build upfront, but there may be some hiccups in the implementation phase.
A PC and a smartphone are not always capable of processing the same amount of code equally as fast, especially if there are bandwidth limitations in play.
As if things weren’t complex enough, SEO is in the picture as well. The site that creates the best experience and renders quickly and correctly will be ranked better.
So, what are the key considerations when designing a mobile responsive website? We asked the best Chicago software development companies for clues, and we’ve been able to come up with the following. Let’s take a look at each factor separately.
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Factor #1 — Performance
If you could wish for one aspect of your website to consistently deliver, it would be its performance. Not only does it impact usability, traffic, and conversions, but it affects your search engine optimization efforts as well.
Putting SEO aside for a second, we can focus on the bottom line since this is what most companies, rightfully, care about most. According to a Kissmetrics study, 30% of mobile users will wait no longer than ten seconds before abandoning a website.
You might be thinking: “That’s fine. Ten seconds is an eternity in the digital world.” And you’d be partially correct — that is a reasonably lengthy load time and should not be all that difficult to achieve.
However, the study also showed that customer behavior changed depending on the load times. A vast majority of shoppers (79%) said that they would be less likely to return to a website with poor performance, and each second’s delay was found to result in a 16% decrease in customer satisfaction.
Factor #2 — Responsiveness
Responsiveness issues crop up on websites that haven’t been built correctly from the ground up. For example, using a viewport metatag without an accompanying media query can break a website’s layout, resulting in chunks of the page being cut off on certain screens.
Since responsive web design is often blamed for poor performance, we should note that the problem is not with the technique but its implementation.
Designers should be starting any web project nowadays with a mobile-first approach in mind. The problem that many responsive websites face is the conditional loading not working correctly, resulting in the full desktop model being delivered to a mobile device. This can result in significant performance issues.
Building a complex responsive site that performs well is not an easy task. Not only do you have to strip down the typically large HTML code, but you also have to leave out specific scripts, CSS lines, and images. Even with all the optimization performed flawlessly, a responsive site will likely never be as fast as a corresponding dedicated mobile website. This is because the latter will have very few scripts and less HTML code, to begin with.
All that being said, supporting both a mobile and a desktop site means twice the maintenance and twice the cost — not the best strategy from a business standpoint. Therefore, it is a small wonder that most people are interested in responsive design’s lower price and higher convenience.
Factor #3 — User Experience
Stripped down to the basics, mobile UX principles are not that dissimilar from the desktop. That said, mobile design is still a rapidly developing field, which leads us to conclude that the best practices are yet to evolve. In many ways, mobile web and app design is still in its formative stage.
As it stands, mobile user experience design is all about trade-offs. It’s as much about figuring out what needs to be on the page as it is about determining what doesn’t need to be there. Prioritizing content is crucial, and so is providing strong visual cues to point the user in the direction you want them to take.
Here are a few factors that you should consider if you wish to create high-quality mobile UX:
- Navigation — Think about whether your design is adding anything to the experience or simply creating confusion. If the latter is the case, think about how you can overcome the problem without detracting too much from your original vision.
- Clarity — This is all about making sure your users know how to use the site from the moment they land on it. Consider using drop shadows on buttons and high-contrast color choices to prompt the desired action through visual cues.
- Touch — Touch controls are one of the most distinguishable differences between desktop and mobile UX. The best advice we can give you is to follow the fat finger rule on your clickable areas.
- Forms — Keep your input forms quick and snappy, rather than asking the users to enter a ton of detail. Limit forms to a few fields and make sure they are big enough to tap. Keep those form labels in check as well — these can easily be thrown off by viewport differences.
When designing for smaller screens, wireframing and prototyping tools are also important. Sure, getting onto real-world devices should be the priority as soon as possible, but having tools that can help with layouts early on can make a huge difference.
Responsive design is not just about performance, nor is it about presentation alone. Instead, designers need to look at projects through a more holistic lens than ever before.
Good UX is essential to the success of any website hoping to be accessed on small screens. Consider your design choices and how every navigation element you implement will work on real-world devices. If you can do this correctly, the users will never have to think about what to do next — it will be immediately apparent at every point.