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Mobile assumptions

Things have come a long way from car phones and personal pagers, but not everyone has the same definition of ‘mobile’. So let’s try and dispell a few myths about mobile web design.

Assumption 1: Mobile is all about phones

Easy myth to dispel. I’m writing this blog post in a café this morning. On the table adjacent to me sits a woman reading a book on a Kindle Fire, whilst opposite me is a man engrossed in his iPad. There are at least three people using smartphones in my field of vision and I am working on a laptop computer with my iPhone in my pocket. None of us are currently making a phone call.

Whether it’s smartphones, eReaders, netbooks, or tablet computers, there is no doubt that mobile has moved beyond the mobile phone.

Assumption 3: Mobile is all about apps

In 2008, when mobile apps first appeared, they offered a great alternative to accessing clunky, unresponsive websites on a screen far too small for the task. And often, they still do.

Downloaded apps are sleek, streamlined, convenient, quick to open and don’t need an internet connection to work. Perfect. But of course they don’t do everything. And mobile app development is certainly not all there is to know about mobile. Now that mobile websites and responsive web design have come into their own, and more popular apps are coming preloaded onto mobile devices, applications are having to find their niche alongside, rather than instead of, mobile web solutions.

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Assumption 3: All devices are created equal

Devices are not uniform. That’s why there are so many types to choose from. Different screen sizes, resolutions, pixel densities, operating systems, browsers, orientations and network speeds all mean that designing for mobile can never be ‘one size fits all’. Do your homework and make sure that you take all factors into account for your mobile website design, responsive web solutions or mobile application development.

Assumption 4: Mobile means less content

Mobile doesn’t mean less content. Nor does it mean ‘dumbed down’ content. In fact, less (and inferior) content can just irritate and alienate mobile users. Imagine if your favourite takeaway website only showed half the menu when accessed on your smartphone, or if you could only see selected roads when visiting Google maps on your iPad.

Whilst smaller screen sizes certainly require you to consider amount and type of content per page, this doesn’t mean that your users want less quantity or quality web page copy. The trick is in presenting it in a way which works on a variety of devices whilst maintaining high-quality content, design and functionality.

Assumption 5: Mobile users are always in a hurry

An obviously-wrong, yet sadly frequent misconception. Of course mobile users can be just as stressed or rushed as anyone else, but very often they are simply sitting on the sofa, taking a bath (yes, we all know that mobile devices don’t mix well with water) or on the bus. Quite likely they’re bored and have plenty of time to spare. Don’t assume that a mobile user has a shorter attention span than a computer user or that they are lacking in patience.

As always, it all comes back to the user and the purpose of your product. Work with what your users want and you won’t go far wrong. And if you can avoid the above assumptions too, so much the better.