Posted by: Dean Taylor  |   Comments  No Response

Everyone’s saying it: 2011 is the year that mobile web use will really hit the mainstream .  Already there are 7.1 million1 people in the UK using the internet whilst on the go and more than 20%2 of time spent online is on mobile devices.

More than 4 million consumers3 are visiting ecommerce sites in the UK every month using mobile internet. What kind of experience are they all having?

Incredible figures when you consider that very few businesses have an online presence optimised to work well on a mobile device. The mobile revolution is moving fast and businesses need to catch up.

iPhone 5 is due in the Summer and the sales for other smartphones (many running Google’s Android OS) are already outstripping the current iPhone. Mobile is The Future and we, as designers, need to understand the new challenges that it brings.

There are some pretty obvious differences when comparing internet use on a mobile device and a regular laptop or desktop computer.

Let’s take a look at just a few of them.

The ‘fat finger’ effect – as there’s no traditional keyboard or accurate pointer, users have to hit everything with their fingers. Great, we’ve removed a barrier between us and the technology, but other than ATMs and train ticket dispensers, there is limited experience in how to do this right. Buttons needs to be big enough (have ‘affordance’) and clearly show that you’ve hit one with your finger. Sounds obvious, but if you’ve tried using a regular website on your phone, you’ll know that they can be very frustrating to use with just your fingers as implements (none of the specialised cutlery you get with your keyboard and mouse!).

Some mobile devices have really quite large screens, but they are still titchy compared to your computer. Also, the screen is portrait in format (or landscape too on an iPhone) so we’re dealing with a different format at a smaller size – this is not just a tiny monitor. The first rule is to Keep It Simple, don’t clutter the screen and allow customers to scroll to see more products or content leaving lots of room for those big buttons.

Then there’s download time. Your device might be drifting in and out of signal and there’s little more frustrating than waiting for content to download especially when you’re on the train and can’t go and make a cup of tea. Stick to the Keep It Simple rule and optimise everything, it’s simply good practise and will improve the experience for everyone.

All the while ensuring the brand experience is reflective of the main website and store experience, of course.

The internet is constantly reinventing itself and this might prove to be the most exciting change yet.

Mobile is already everywhere:  I’m typing this on my iPhone from Mount Everest* (link 3).  This year, mobile web is becoming THE web*.

*Not really. There is mobile coverage on Mount Everest, but I’m sat at my desk with a cup of coffee.

1 Internet Monitor Survey, Kantar Media, September 2010

2  KPMG as cited by eMarketer , December 2010

3 GSMA & ComScore, August 2010

Stats found at http://www.google.co.uk/intl/en/landing/internetstats/

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