Web users’ preferences and online behavior have drastically changed over the past decade. More and more people prefer conducting searching on their smartphones and tablets. Stats show that global mobile traffic reached 58.99% in Q2 2022. There are an estimated 6.6 billion smartphone users worldwide, which grows daily. Considering such stats, it’s getting clear that optimizing websites to look and feel stunning across all mobile devices is important. What is a mobile web design, and what are the main mobile web design principles to follow to make all elements of your website’s design and content look excellent on smartphones and tablets? Let’s dive in and find it out. 

What is mobile web design?

Designing a mobile website means optimizing the web experience for mobile users. The method of designing for the mobile web includes the following aspects: 

  • Designing mobile-first. Traditionally, websites were optimized for desktop devices. However, as a growing number of people have changed their browsing habits and use handheld devices, designers should follow the mobile-first approach in design. It means one should start optimizing content and web pages for the smallest screen and switch to larger screens. 
  • Creating a responsive layout automatically changes depending on the user’s screen size. It’s an essential feature of most websites and web templates that you can find online. The process is simple – the larger the screen size, the more content can be seen at the given moment. 
  • Creating a search engine-friendly design. Your effort would be worth nothing unless users your mobile web design in search engines. Google’s mobile-first indexing predominantly uses the mobile version of the content for indexing and ranking. Check out the following video on mobile-first indexing and learn how to make your website more findable in search engines and avoid and manage the most common challenges with mobile-first indexing on your website.

How to create a mobile web design?

Like building a desktop website, designing for mobile devices begins with market research and understanding the target audience’s needs. It’s important to analyze what users expect to find on your website before moving to any further steps. 

Once you know what kind of users you will target, you need to proceed to the prototyping. It involves creating low-fidelity and high-fidelity prototypes.

  • First, a product team creates low-fidelity prototypes to present information on separate pages. 
  • After that, a high-fidelity prototype is created. It features the content and visuals the future mobile web design would feature to validate the design with real users. 

After a web design team validates the high-fidelity prototype, one can proceed to build a mobile web design from scratch or using popular site builders like Squarespace, Wix, or Elementor.

Mobile web design principles 

Let’s now focus on the major mobile web design principles to ensure you provide mobile and tablet users with an exceptional site browsing experience. 

Clear content hierarchy 

A modern web user is always in a hurry. It’s especially true when users browse web content from their handheld devices. Instead of reading your website’s content word by word, people prefer scanning it. That’s why achieving good scannability using a clear content hierarchy should easily guide people through your website’s content and help them easily find the information they are looking for. 

Here are some of the core principles for you to follow when designing a mobile website: 

  • Be selective about the information you want to add to your website. Focus on the essentials. 
  • Keep your message and key CTAs front and center. A user should easily find the needed information during the first couple of seconds when they land on your website’s homepage. 
  • Use visual clues to separate your website’s navigation patterns from the content. Using whitespace (or negative space) should help you achieve the needed results. 

Let’s consider the following example of a mobile web design featuring a clear content hierarchy. This is what the nbcnews website looks like when you open it on the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra. When you land on the front page, you notice a selection of featured news. The information is displayed “above the fold so that users do not need to scroll to the bottom of the page to find the latest updates. 

Create one-page designs 

User attention is a precious source when you design a mobile website. Building simple, one-page layouts is another must-follow mobile web design principle. Simple layouts work better on small screens. Follow these steps: 

  • Unlike building desktop websites, it’s better to stick to one-column layouts when you create a mobile website design. Adding multiple columns to a web page can introduce more noise and make it harder for users to focus on the essential information. 
  • Forget about using a horizontal scroll. It affects your website’s UX and fails Google’s mobile-friendly test. 
  • Follow the minimal approach. Get rid of purely decorative elements and let every element of your mobile web design serve a particular role and bring value to your audience. 

Make your content touch-friendly

Small touch gadgets are another problem for mobile users and web developers. Users tap texts and design elements on small smartphone screens with their fingers, increasing the chances of hitting the wrong objects. Adding large finger-friendly buttons to mobile web designs should make users’ interaction with your website more enjoyable. The recommended target size for touchscreen objects is 7-10mm.

Design for optimized page speed

A modern user is always in a hurry. If you don’t want people to leave for a competitor’s website, you cannot make them wait for several seconds when a web page opens or the needed form appears on your web page. Measure the performance of your mobile web design and ensure you remove all elements that can potentially increase load time. For example, high-resolution images, videos, and animations can affect the load time. Use PageSpeed Insights to check how fast your website loads on different devices. 

Allow mobile users to finish browsing on desktop 

It’s a common practice when people open your website on mobile and finish browsing on a desktop. For example, it’s a popular tendency among eCommerce websites. People find a product using Google search, check its price and description, and then switch to the desktop version to take a closer look at product images and complete the checkout. In such cases, offering “share” options is a convenient feature that enables users to share links via email or social media. 

Over to you 

Whatever of the principles mentioned above you choose to create a mobile web design, always remember to validate the results of your work with real users. If you think your design is polished to perfection, you may be surprised to discover some unforeseen flaws your team hasn’t noticed. Testing should help you find such flaws at early testing and prevent them from getting featured in your mobile web design when it launches.

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