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Google's research on users on mobile friendly websites

Google’s research on users on mobile friendly web sites

Google posts White Paper on Users and Mobile Friendly Web Sites
It’s always worth checking out when Google publishes guidelines and this one on mobile friendly web sites is no exception. The guidelines are underpinned by 119 hours of research on user complaints about supposedly mobile friendly web sites.

1 Add a prominent search bar
Users on mobile devices don’t have the time or the budget to spend on wasted efforts trying to find what they are looking for. Most mobile users do not have limitless air time or data download facilities. Unless of course they find themselves in free WiFi zones. No matter the cost, make it easy for users to find what they are want from your site.

2 Break up large items into small bite sizes
It might seem logical that on a small screen a long form is not a good idea. But it’s not always obvious to the developer who is working on large screens and who might be used to filling in applications on a desktop computer.

For mobile device users break up an application form with many fields into bite sized screen sizes with each screen checking that the information has been entered correctly. Nothing is worse than spending what seems like a long time in completing fields and only at the end finding out that one has an error.

3 Let users browse without signing in
A most off-putting feature on any website is when one has to sign in to view content. It feels as if one is being watched by Big Brother right from the first moment on landing on the site.

Allow users to browse content anonymously or as guest. Don’t force new visitors into signing up to an account. Offer the freedom of having a look. Like walking into a store. There should be no ticket required to view the information on offer.

4 Calls to action everywhere
It’s easy to miss menu items on mobile phones. Make sure that calls to actions are where users can easily see them. Navigation was the easiest for users if calls to action were prominently displayed in the main body of the site with secondary tasks available via drop down menus.

5 Keep menus short
This is one area where the difference between desktop and mobile friendly web sites is the biggest. On desktop computers extensive drop down menus may be viewed with ease and navigation is easy. In fact users have experience navigation large menus.

On mobile view menu items have to be short. Show the fewest menu items on the mobile site. The list needs to be clearly-defined and easy to navigate. Perhaps in a way, the brevity of mobile sites should filter back into the desktop sites. After all, if it can work in short form on mobile devices, it would work just as well on desktop.

6 Make the home button easy to find
In Google’s study users indicated that they would want to use the logo to tap on to find the home page again. If that did not work on a site it caused frustration. Use the logo as a navigation button to return to the home page. Of course also use the Home button.

7 Allow users to save where they were
Most mobile users will have their search on a website interrupted. As users browse the web on the go they will often have to stop their activity due to ordinary activities interfering. Make it easy for users to find their spot again once they are back online. Perhaps a quick email option or other ways to allow users to bookmark where they have reached.

It seems obvious
As much as the above pointers as well as the other results of the Google study appear to be blindingly obvious on reading this is far from what is being presented by companies and their web developers.

Of course most of the pointers might appear to be more useful to eCommerce sites than to the more common information focused website. However, whether presenting info or selling a product making your site easy to navigate on mobile devices should be of prime importance. Your website users are migrating to their mobile devices to view your site. Look after them.

Click here to download the white paper.