The Importance of mobile websites
27th October 2011

Why do we need mobile websites? Everyone has smartphones nowadays so isn’t the desktop version good enough?

These are just two of the many questions that are asked where mobile websites are concerned. Some people think they’re not required, but here at Hiss we believe they can actually be really important. Especially as now people want to be able to access everything on the move – usually on slower internet connections, and yes, this also includes smartphone users!

When viewing websites on the move users are looking for clear, simple navigation, and a quick way to get to the information they want. “Pinch to zoom” was cool 5 years ago, but now it’s just annoying! With mobile websites the user doesn’t have to zoom at all. There needs to be the least amount of scrolling, and everything should be large and clear – this also allows users, including non-smartphone users, to still be able to access everything.

At the moment, there are practically hundreds of different types of mobile phones. Compared to just a few types of home computer, this makes designing websites for mobiles very challenging. Some mobile phones support animation, some do not, for example. Some users have a limited amount of bandwidth that they are able to use each month. Others may have costly tariff charges for accessing online data. Because of this, the content on mobile websites needs careful consideration as to whether it should be included or not. One striking difference between desktop sites and their mobile counterparts is the amount of imagery used, for example.

As you are viewing the website on the move the screen size is small so it is recommended to design to 320 pixels wide (thus ensuring that as many phones as possible can view it) – a third of the width of the average desktop website. Because of this, many mobile websites will only use one single vertically scrollable column. Some content-rich mobile sites will use two columns, but these are in the minority, and are not advised for most mobile site designs.

Mobile websites are now starting to become popular, because they are able to give the user only the information they require when on the move. Mobile websites do not usually show everything from your desktop website. With website analysis software, such as Google Analytics, web designers are able to analyse exactly how users are accessing their website (and sometimes even what network they are using). We can now see how many users are visiting our websites on a desktop, a tablet or on a mobile phone. This kind of quantitative data allows us to better cater for all types of devices. We can target specific device types, and provide a more suitable user experience depending on how someone chooses to view our site. Train company websites are good proof of this; when you have to catch a train somewhere, you’ll probably want to know if it’s on time or delayed. By selecting a train station, most mobile train websites will show you all this information and more. It’s this kind of use case that makes mobile websites so powerful. Mobile train websites are a great example of providing functionality that isn’t just a scaled down afterthought from the desktop version, but how mobile websites can be used to provide entirely new functionality for the user. Mobile websites are still a fairly new idea, and it’s one that Hiss Design fully embraces. At the moment our website is having a mobile version built, allowing for the best accessibility for all our users.