What Small Businesses Need To Know About Mobile UX
Reading time: 4 minutes
We’re long past the point of mobile technology being the future. It’s squarely the present now, and it isn’t going anywhere. Yet despite this, there are plenty of big companies out there who don’t really understand how to take advantage of the opportunities it presents.
You may know that the mobile experience is fundamentally different to that of any other platform, and with such a large portion of online retail now being routed through smartphones, the difference between good and bad user experience (UX) has enormous real-world value.
If you’re running a small business — whether you’re looking to grow quickly or content to keep things minimal—then you are in the perfect position to make use of mobile operations in a way that larger and slower companies aren’t ready to.
So here’s what every small businesses needs to know about mobile UX, and how you can polish your website design to keep your mobile customers coming back.
Data Entry Must Be Minimally Tedious
No one likes filling in forms on a desktop version of a website, but it’s even worse on mobile. Swipe-friendly keyboards are great when they work just right, of course— sadly, they frequently don’t, particularly when used to tackle things like passwords, email addresses, or locational information.
That’s why a vital part of good mobile UX design is minimizing input redundancy and making user interactions as satisfying as possible. Compare the following two scenarios about visiting an ecommerce site:
Scenario 1: You’re asked to create a user account with a username and a password. You type in some details but the ‘Create Account’ button doesn’t do anything. You wonder if the password needs to be longer, so you extend it then try again. This time it works. You’re then asked to log in to the account you just created, once again putting in the username and password.
Scenario 2: You’re given the option of creating a user account with a username and a password or logging in using a social media account. You select the former, and create a username and a password, following the data validation instructions above the fields. The ‘Create Account’ button turns to a green tick once you’ve pressed it, and you’re immediately logged in to your new account.
Scenario 1 would probably prompt me to leave the site entirely, never to return, whereas scenario 2 sounds very helpful and convenient. In short, the more work you require the user to do to navigate your website, the less likely they’ll be to stick around.
Space Is at a Premium
Building a navigation for a small touchscreen prevents you from relying on tiny buttons or links. Everything needs to be big and easy to access, which means that the presence of every single element on the page must be completely justified.
While a desktop website can be sprawling and messy and just about get away with it if the functionality is there (the Amazon homepage can get pretty cluttered at times), the same can’t be said for a mobile website.
I return to Apple as an example time and time again because their design work is always outstanding, and so, so simple.
Ask yourself what actions your users will want to take when they reach your site, and put them front and center, bold and clear. Get rid of anything that doesn’t add sufficient value to the page. And be extremely careful with the colors and textures you use to make sure you don’t cause any disconcerting clashes.
Speed Kills (Your Sales)
If you’re browsing a business website on a phone, you’re likely either pressed for time (waiting for a train, or in a rush to get somewhere) or too relaxed to make your way to a laptop, and either way you’re not going to feel like waiting for a sluggish page to load.
As noted elsewhere on this very site, “Amazon estimates that if their site took just one second longer to load, they would lose $1.6 billion in sales each year.” So don’t go planning an intricate and elaborate navigation with fancy animations and complex backgrounds.
Instead, make speed a top priority, being sure to keep everything succinct and invest in quality web hosting that can deliver consistent performance— you can look at some options here.
Design Conventions are Important
The role that iconography plays in the universality of mobile designs is difficult to overstate. With text not an ideal solution on small screens, visual shorthand gets information across quickly, easily, and often across language barriers.
Do most of these icons seem familiar? They should.
Getting that shorthand right is an essential part of creating an outstanding mobile UX. Choose the wrong icon somewhere, or defy design convention in some other way, and you’ll cause confusion in your users that will drive them away from your site and towards a more comprehensible competitor.
One decent way of keeping up with shifts in design trends is to periodically browse some industry-sorted lists of businesses for sale, visiting the websites and reviewing the commonalities. Often set up specifically to be sold, they’re typically optimized for ease of use, making them decent (and consistently-refreshed) examples.
Polish Is All-Important
Complex functionality has its place on the web, but when it comes to mobile platforms, what matters more than anything else is how polished the UX is. Anyone who has an unpleasant time trying to get around your site will head off to one of the millions of other sites out there.
View things from the perspective of your average user, and figure out your priorities from there. What do they want to find? What do they want to do? What might annoy them, frustrate them, discourage them? If you really put time into answering these questions, you’ll be able to produce a site that converts at a much higher rate and keeps customers coming back for more.
Victoria is an ecommerce marketing expert and freelance writer who has dealt with too many poorly-optimized websites. You can read more of her work at her blog Victoria Ecommerce.