In the early days of mobile, a mobile site was thought of as a smaller, often stripped-down version of the main desktop site. But the days of thinking about mobile website design separately from your desktop website are over.
Now, with the increasing capabilities of smart phones and tablets, people are doing everything from researching purchases to buying airline tickets on mobile platforms, so your mobile site has to be as solid, feature-rich and versatile as your desktop site.Mobile still needs to be discussed in the site design process but more and more sites are being designed in a modular fashion so that modules can be reflowed for a mobile user as part of a holistic approach to overall site design.
Today’s approach to website navigation should be largely platform agnostic. And you should be thinking about how to best strike a balance between fewer clicks and fewer categories for your site.
So when you’re planning a new site or redesigning an existing one, you shouldn’t be thinking about a mobile menu and a desktop menu but about one menu solution. When Duo Consulting worked with the Episcopal Church on its site, for example, we created category menus that appear on the top of the desktop site and then simply flow to the side of the mobile site.
Think about a solid navigation structure that prioritizes the information your site visitors will be looking for and recognizes how they’re accustomed to navigating sites.
A common pitfall is to talk about your company prominently on a site. But that’s usually not the first thing visitors are looking for. Rather than fall into that trap, look at some solid ecommerce sites like Zappo’s or Target. They are all about the products they sell and content that relates to those products because that’s what visitors come to the sites looking for.
Another important take-away about mobile sites is the need to strike a balance between clicks and categories. Old-style design principles feared asking people to make more than one click to find what they wanted. That theory is passé these days.
Rather, design to lead people to what they want in what appears to them a logical path. People have enough online experience now that they expect certain ways to find information, products or other things they come to your site for.
When Duo worked with Cook County, for example, early thoughts were to organize the site by tasks visitors might perform. That approach gave visitors long lists of tasks, which appeared confusing to them. So we instead organized the site by type of visitor first, with drop-down menus for residents and business owners.
Do competitive research to see what the common paths are for your business segment and then think long and hard before you deviate from those. You might think using cleaver product category names would set your site apart, for example, but it also might just confuse customers and send them away instead.
Using conventional naming for product categories or other types of information is almost like a free pass for those layers of navigation, people don’t consider them part of their journey and so aren’t deterred by having to navigate through them.
Remember that a mobile user often is a distracted user, doing several tasks at once, another reason to keep their search path simple and to constantly remind them where they are on your site.
To summarize, our key take-aways from this discussion are:
- Think about navigation from a device-agnostic point of view
- Strike a balance between fewer clicks and fewer categories
- Have a flexible approach to span different viewing modes rather than a mobile menu and a desktop menu, have one menu that can be adapted for both.
- Think of mobile users always having a divided attention span. Design accordingly.