future_search1_petitinvention.jpgAre we preparing for the next generation of web design and development? Are we developing for the future and keeping the end in mind?

As the move to mobile becomes inevitable, it has become clear to marketers, designers and developers alike that as an information medium, mobile devices have made it to mainstream. According to an article by Greg Sterling, 'by 2015, more U.S. Internet users will access the Internet through mobile devices than through PCs or other wireline devices' (Forecast: More US Mobile Web Users Than PC By 2015).

With online capabilities, increasing speeds and millions of users, the mobile platform can no longer be ignored as an integral part of interactive communications and marketing. With the added responsibility of developing a mobile experience that compliments all other communications, we have also had to take into account the quirks and special considerations that come with designing for mobile devices.

Earlier this year Lyndon Cerejo published the blog A User-Centered Approach to Web Design for Mobile Devices on Smashing Magazine's website that provides an outline for a practical approach to managing mobile, and we think he's got the right idea.

Cerejo first points out that not everyone needs a mobile website, and that you first need to assess your current situation.

'True, there will be 91.4 million mobile Internet users in the US by the end of this year, but how many of them are in your target audience?' Good question and definitely one you should be asking yourself. There's a possibility that your website is not one that would necessarily benefit from a full redesign for mobile. Check out available analytics and see how your site is being used and how it is accessed. Consider your audience/users and consider if a mobile site would add any value to their experience. In another useful article on mobile web design, 10 Key Considerations for Your Mobile Web Design Strategy, author Brian Casel encourages designers to always create with consideration to business objectives and to refer to available information and data from past efforts before moving forward.

Cerejo's next point seems like it should be obvious, but can often be forgotten: 'user-centered mobile design starts with the user.' Classify who your users are and then identify the needs of each kind of user you cater to with your site. Determine if they are accessing your site via mobile devices, how they are using it, what they find important and irritating about using it and what devices they are using. It's crucial to take everything you find from this evaluation and apply it to your mobile model. Next Cerejo tells us to figure out what kind of information or services your mobile site should offer. Find out which features are the most important to include with regards to business goals and the added value perceived by the user (and if there even is any). Once the function of a mobile site has been determined, it's time to design the thing. But a mobile site isn't just a desktop website accessed and used on a phone or tablet--- it's a whole different ballgame when it comes to its design and has certain considerations to take into account. This doesn't just mean render your site for a mobile device…usability is different and design should take unique usability elements into consideration. Text should be easy to read, navigation should be simple and choices streamlined. And always keep in mind that in many cases mobile navigation is facilitated by touch. 'Prioritize content… be succinct,' says Cerejo. Minimize the input required from users and provide useful shortcut keys. Give the option to stay logged in since mobile devices are more personal. Design your mobile site to remain consistent across channels, both in continuity and user experience. Integrate your mobile site to work with your existing site--- mobile should reinforce the other elements of your communications, after all. 'Prototype, review and refine,' advises Cerejo. Create your mobile site, evaluate its performance and the response from users and continue to further optimize the site as a useful and valuable service for your users. Mobile web design introduces a new way of thinking about how we present our content, but it also introduces a new way to connect with our users. While it does have its special considerations, it presents new possibilities in serving consumers and reaching new ones. As web developers and designers it is our duty to ensure the online experiences we create are done so with the end in mind. Using tools and techniques that will evolve with this new evolution is critical. Ensure what you develop today can address the current mobile needs but that it also has the flexibility and robustness to evolve with the ever-changing mobile landscape.

Seize the opportunity to make mobile work for you.

Photo courtesy of petitinvention.wordpress.com