Last week, a major war of words fell upon the blog/Twitter/online landscape when one of the mobile web’s biggest contributors Jakob Nielson wrote a blog about best practices in mobile web design. One of Nielson’s arguments was that when designing for mobile, you should strip content down to streamline the user experience. What followed was a series of rebuttals that were, let’s just say, not so friendly (for example, this one, or this, or this little number). While we may not be quite ready to light torches and gather a posse, we here at FiddleFly were glad to see such a passionate uproar in defense of the mobile web experience.
Something we try our best to impress upon people is to always remember that the mobile web is a different medium. That’s why we’re not huge fans of responsive design as a fix-all solution. However, just as important as remembering that mobile and desktop are different experiences, is remembering that the mobile experience is not an inferior one.
Marketers tend to think of mobile users as on-the-go individuals who are accessing mobile sites for quick information or references, but those marketers are forgetting that mobile means anywhere, including the couch, the office, the waiting room, etc. Mobile needs to be a complete experience, not an abbreviated one, as more and more we are seeing web users access the internet exclusively from mobile devices.
So, how do you build a site that is compact and direct enough for users on the move yet complex and intricate enough for users with time on their hands? Well, that is the challenge of great mobile web design, but it is not as tall a task as it may seem.
The key to building dynamic yet flexible sites lies in using all of your resources optimally. For example, if you are trying to incorporate a lot of photo or video content and are worried about flooding your site and slowing down load times, you might consider taking some of the content and storing it on a company Facebook page and then linking directly to that page from your site. If you want to create a splash page with a creative and exciting intro video or animation but are afraid of boring returning users, include a link to skip the video.
Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg and you should always be looking for ways to give your mobile users more. Little maneuvers like these don’t take much more than some simple keystrokes, however they will show your users that you have taken the time to consider their experience in full. If mobile users visit a site and can immediately tell that whomever designed the site understands the importance of creating a complete mobile experience, the users will not only stick around, but they will come back for more.
Let us know your thoughts on Jakob Nielson’s article, his detractors, and your own opinions about mobile design. As always, follow and find us on Twitter @fiddlefly ,Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.