For many website owners, getting the mobile user experience right can feel significantly more challenging than for the fixed web. In this post I'll discuss some of the mobile challenges and share interesting insights from some recent WhatUsersDo mobile usability tests.
But first an apology! At this point in most blog posts about the mobile internet there's a beautifully crafted infographic dramatically showing its explosive growth. I'm sorry I don't have one. That's because I'm guessing you:
a) live in the real world and can see almost everyone you know use the internet on their smartphone/tablet
b) understand what your website stats are telling you about mobile device usage
c) may have, like me, nodded off in too many mobile conference sessions where the first 15 minutes of each 20-minute session is spent telling you that the mobile internet is big and getting bigger (with the remaining 5 minutes a thinly veiled product pitch)!
We all know the mobile internet is here. We can probably all agree on some of its key technical challenges:
- Variable bandwidth - from 3G to WiFi on the same device
- Screen size and orientation
- Variable support for common fixed web formats e.g. Flash
- No keyboard or mouse!
How do we behave?
But these are "just" technical hurdles. The key to success in mobile is not just technical compliance but, more importantly, understanding the new user behaviour that these devices are enabling. Such as:
1. Key user tasks - how do these differ to the fixed web?
2. Attention spans - is the commonly held belief that mobile users are always more rushed actually true (think about iPad users sitting on their sofas researching their next holiday destination)?
3. The multi-channel experience as users complete tasks on both fixed web and mobile.
Getting insight into user behaviour is the key to understanding how to truly design a rewarding "experience" for your mobile users. Since launching our mobile device testing service in January 2012, we've run hundreds of usability tests across multiple sectors and gained some fascinating insights. Here are some of our favourites:
- It seems a great idea that you can control the size of text and pictures in your mobile app. But our research has shown users want to pinch and zoom and expect to be able to on an app just as they can on the web.
- You've got a mobile optimised version of your site, but no link to the full site. Sometimes users really want the features and content of the full site - especially where they've already visited it on their fixed web device. Tip: if you have two versions, always include a link to the full version (and one back to the mobile version of course).
- "We need to adapt the content for our responsive web design" (read our post on Usability Testing a Responsive Web Design) - you don't! You need to ensure it's presented in a way that makes sense to users and allows for scanning and "delving" into the detail.
- "Mobile users browse and wont search because they don't like typing" - not true! We've observed that users expect to be able to search mobile sites and apps just as they expect to on the fixed web. The usability challenge comes in how much prominence to give the search box and the display of results.
I'll be sharing many more insights at the next Web Managers Group London meet-up on 5 July, so, for those of you able to make that, I look forward to meeting you there. For the rest of you, here are a few snippets from some recent mobile usability tests:
Great offer: 20% discount for Web Managers Group members!
WhatUsersDo have a special offer for members of the Web Managers Group (non-members join here for free!) who want to get started with mobile usability testing until the end of July 2012. Simply contact WhatUsersDo and mention you're a member of the Web Managers Group and you'll receive a 20% discount off your first order.
Lee Duddell is the founder of WhatUsersDo - a partner of the Web Managers Group.
Header image licensed and adapted under Creative Commons from MJ/TR on Flickr.