With the proliferation of smartphones and personal devices, “mobile-first” has become the watchword when it comes to website design for optimal user experience. Businesses must ensure their websites are just as responsive, appealing and easy to navigate on mobile devices as they are on desktop computers—if not more so.
To succeed, it’s important to not only adopt strategies specific to mobile design but also to follow good practices for serving users on any device. To help, 13 experts from Forbes Technology Council share their best tips for optimizing modern websites and designing them for the mobile era.
1. Understand your users.
“User experience” begins with “user.” Understand them. Create a story or narrative that represents their good day and create one that represents their bad day. Those stories become the lens through which you can create an experience that addresses your users’ needs. – Tim Mitrovich, Artisan
2. Consider edge data methods.
You need a clear data strategy and a robust data architecture. Otherwise, your app will be making massive data calls to the backend. Cached data is not great for app performance, so do look at edge data methods to serve the right data at the right time for optimal customer experience. – Jacqueline Teo, HGC Global Communications
3. Create a quick and simple path to your call to action.
Ensure a clear and simple flow for each persona use case. In the browser, we had three-click aspirations. On mobile, we’ve changed that to three swipes for the user to see the clearly understood and interactive button or call to action. – Gavin McMurdo, IStreamPlanet
4. Keep your operating systems and applications up to date.
One best tip for companies trying to improve their mobile sites’ performance or UX is to ensure that all servers are running the latest operating systems and applications. Frequently patching and updating the underlying infrastructure of mobile sites will provide the latest features and the most-up-to-date security posture, mitigating known vulnerabilities that might be exploitable in the wild. – Bob Fabien Zinga, Directly, Inc./U.S. Navy Reserve
5. Invest in progressive loading.
Progressive loading (a.k.a. lazyload) can help capture your users’ attention quickly by allowing your website to show meaningful content as soon as possible. From there, load in advance what your user will see next. By continuing to prioritize the loading of resources according to when your user will need them, the entire experience will feel much snappier. – Amy Czuchlewski, Bottle Rocket
6. Know your audience and which devices they use to interact with you.
As an enterprise business-to-business SaaS solution, we looked at our data and found that 95% of our visitors are on desktop. Because of that, we focus on the desktop first. If your data says mobile devices are what your visitors primarily use—which is typically true for business-to-consumer products—then really focus on a solid mobile UX or an app. – Richard Kahn, Anura Solutions, LLC
7. Get right to the point with your message.
A lot of mobile development focuses on UX, which is incredibly important, but the message is king. Spending as much or more time on immediately and effectively getting your most important messages to your audience is vital. UX plays a role in this. But having UX and your content/messaging strategy work in unison is the Holy Grail of mobile development. – James Draper, Bidstack
8. Understand the difference between responsive design and mobile-first design.
There is a difference between a responsively designed platform and a mobile-first platform—and the distinction is important. Most companies focus on compliance and the ability of their platform to respond to a smaller form factor such as a phone. Mobile-first design asks, “How do the needs of people differ when they’re using a phone?” Mobile-first considers that features may differ on mobile versus desktop. – Pierce Brantley, Cytracom
9. Make decisions based on data, not trends.
When you decide to make changes or improvements to your mobile site, don’t just stick to the “latest trends.” Make decisions based on the real data you’ve collected on how your users or site visitors interact with your website. Measure first, then optimize. – Ivailo Nikolov, SiteGround
10. Decouple your mobile strategy from your desktop strategy.
Website strategy for mobile should be totally decoupled from your primary website, with only the message and brand being constants. What you’re trying to say has an impact on the potential direction your team can take the design. Accessibility is not really front of mind—most often, mobile visitors appreciate content that speaks to them literally. Animations and voice-overs keep you in control. – Raymond Hicks, 5thColumn Inc.
11. Design your site based on your customers’ behavior.
Know your customers. Learn and analyze the way they use your products. Which browsers, which devices and which platforms do they prefer? Do they usually use the product during the day or at night? Do they prefer a horizontal (tablet) or vertical (smartphone) view? All these factors should help you design a better product that best suits your customers. – Ariel Rosenfeld, 3d Signals
12. Keep the design clean.
Minimalism is the word when it comes to smaller screens. Stick with simple one-column designs if you can. Check all elements for redundancy. Be very frugal with information—especially above the fold—but be generous with call-to-action elements. Give links and buttons good breathing room. Similarly, for forms, keep the number of fields to a minimum; use more checkboxes and fewer typing fields. – Vikram Joshi, pulsd
13. Get expert help.
Bring in outside expertise, and make sure your internal leaders are there to be the bridge, not subject matter experts. Be the experts about the business, but let the experts from outside handle the design, as this is what they do day in and day out. We often try to become the SMEs for a “solution” when we should simply be the business SMEs who help and guide the outside experts. – Gene Yoo, Resecurity, Inc.