The way information is accessed online is continuously evolving. More and more website visits are coming from mobile phones and other hand-held devices. The needs of smartphone users are also evolving because the users are becoming more focused and task oriented.
Websites that have been designed for laptops or desktops are not appropriate for mobile visitors. Screen space is very limited on mobile phones. Therefore the navigation system of a typical website will not be compatible mobile devices. A navigation system that is compatible with the mobile phone devices is needed for providing a satisfactory experience to the visitors of your website.
We will discuss some of the most important best practices that will ensure that the navigation system of your website is effective and efficient.
Simplicity is of crucial importance because of the limited space on the mobile screens. For simplicity you should remove any unnecessary photos, proprietary software, Flash items, and other design elements. These are common mistakes in a mobile website design. The content should be broken up into smaller parts and the website should be kept free of clutter.
Determine the Priority of Content:
The content should be prioritized. The space on mobile website is limited and the visitors are always in a hurry. Therefore you need to know which content is of highest importance for the visitors. The most important content items should be given high priority. They should be made easy to find and act upon.
Keep Scrolling to the Minimum Level:
Scrolling causes frustration. You should keep the need to scroll on a minimum level. Most of the mobile users like to scroll from top to bottom. Therefore you should eliminate the need to scroll from left to right. Top to bottom scrolling should also be kept on a minimum level where ever possible.
Vertical Navigation system:
A vertical navigation system should be preferred to a horizontal navigation system. This need is further emphasized by the need to keep scrolling top to bottom. A navigation structure should be created in which the menu items are listed vertically. Navigation menu should not scroll from left to right. This is also important because most of the users see the website in portrait instead of landscape.
Keep the Number of Menu Buttons Minimum
The number of menu buttons should be kept low for designing mobile-friendly web site. The number of main navigation buttons should not be more than five. More than five menu buttons will complicate and clutter the website.
If the number of menu buttons cannot be kept less than five, a nested menu (also known as collapsible menu) should be used. Collapsible menu is useful where categories of items are needed or where content need to be shown on menu as well as screen.
Minimize the Number of Taps:
The number of taps should be kept as minimum as possible. The fewer taps a visitor has to make to find the desired information, the happier he will be. If a visitor has to perform too many actions to find what he is looking for, he will be annoyed and frustrated.
Easy to Find Back Button:
Due to small space of the mobile devices, it is always possible to make a mistake and tap on the wrong button or link. Therefore you should always include an easy to find back button on each of the pages of your website. If a user cannot easily find the back button, he will be further frustrated by his mistake.
Nothing annoys a visitor more than a slow loading website. An optimized mobile site should load in about four seconds. Page load time is also important because it plays an important role in the placement of your site in the mobile search engines. If your website takes too much time to load, the visitors might get annoyed and move over to other sites.
Minimize the Number of Images:
The number of images should be kept to the minimum because the images take a long time to load. The mobile users are usually very content oriented. They are not interested in just browsing a website. Therefore use only images that are really necessary. And image crunchers should be used to reduce the size of images. All the unnecessary images should be eliminated.
Avoid Streaming of Videos on Your Website:
Videos affect the load time of your website. Although many mobile phones are good at handling audio and video, the browser might not be as good. Instead of streaming videos on your website, you should use links of Youtube.
Compatibility With Mobile Features:
Different mobile phones offer different features that can be used to improve the experience of your visitors. One of the most useful features is the location of your business. Your website should provide the information about your location so that it offers a more personable experience. Many mobile phones offer click-to-call feature. Your website should take advantage of this feature and provide a click-to-call button.
Redirecting the Visitors to Mobile Version of Website:
When a visitor visits your website from a mobile, he should be automatically redirected to the mobile compatible version of your website. You should also give the option to the visitors to access the standard version of your website if they want to.
Structure Your Site’s URL:
It is becoming more and more popular to use particular URL structures for mobile versions of websites. Domain names such as “mobi” or “dotmobi” can be purchased so your URL will look like “nameofyoursite.mobi”. Another option is to use a sub-domain name such as “m.nameofsite.com”. The use of such URL structures makes it easier to find the mobile version of a website.
Due to growing popularity of smartphones, mobile navigation of websites is becoming more and more important. You should carefully design the navigation system of your website so that the mobile users have a satisfactory experience of your website. The above best practices can help you design such a navigation system.