Tips For Optimizing Your Website For Mobile Users

Tips For Optimizing Your Website For Mobile Users
When you own a website or are looking to design one for the first time, it’s essential that you understand the differences between designing a standard website and designing one for mobile users. Many believe that they are relatively similar, but your mobile customers won’t receive a good user experience unless you optimize your site specifically for mobile devices. As this can be a relatively complicated process, here are some tips that should prove exceedingly useful in ensuring that your mobile site is just as easy for customers to use as your standard one. 
Make Sure That Your Website is Responsive
The first step towards ensuring that your mobile site is a success is by making it responsive. If you don’t know what this means, a responsive site is basically one in which the size of the site will respond accordingly depending on the device that is being used to access it. As such, mobile users will find that the website you have designed can be displayed on whichever size of mobile screen they are viewing it on, whether 4 inch or 6 inch or anything in between. You can optimize your website for this by adding a responsive framework into the design, of which there are several different options available. These options are usually open source, which means that they are free for everyone to use. This helps to limit the amount of scrolling that the user will have to do, giving them more time to spend actually browsing through the content on your site. 
Understanding Mobile Users
The key to ensuring that you are able to optimize your site for mobile users to the best of your ability is by first understanding what mobile users are looking for when browsing a website on their devices. Avoid making a complete copy of your standard site, as there are a myriad of aspects of standard design that just don’t mesh well with mobile devices of any kind. For example, when a mobile user is visiting your “bio” or “about” pages, they don’t want to see endless paragraphs about the roles that each staff member plays a part of in your company or a lengthy statement about your vision for your business. They merely want to view some quick contact info, directions to your store locations if you have a physical address and maybe even a small map pinpointing the addresses of these locations. This information needs to be precise and to the point. If mobile users want to go in-depth with your website, they will do so once they have access to a laptop or desktop computer and can use your standard site. In the meantime, it’s important to ensure that their mobile needs are satisfied. 
Create a Streamlined Site Layout
To backup the point just mentioned, the layout for your site needs to be as streamlined and simple as possible, in order for mobile users to navigate the contents of your mobile site effortlessly. The thing about mobile devices that you should be aware of is that they don’t contain nearly as much internal memory as a standard computing device, meaning that everything inherently loads at a much slower rate. As such, make sure to lessen the amount of pages you include on your mobile site by placing the most important and essential content on these pages. This will allow for users to only have to click a few times and load a few pages in order to get everything that they need. The layout of your site must be streamlined and focused on simplicity, which will actually be covered in more detail in a few of the following tips. It’s also important to lessen the amount of items you display on one page, so that the user doesn’t have to scroll too much to reach what they need.
Avoid Common Clutter Issues
When designing any type of website, avoiding common clutter problems is something that many site owners often forget to do. While this is essential for a standard site, it’s all the more important for a mobile one, as users don’t want to have to look at a plethora of different things on one page. Too much info, images and links can cause a user to be turned off from your mobile site, which could have a negative affect on your main site and even your brand. Resist the urge to cover every part of a page with something and consider utilizing as much white space as possible. White space refers to the portions of a page that is left unmarked. This gives your site an overall look of simplicity and professionalism and will allow users to be drawn to the most important aspects of each web page.
Connecting Both Standard and Mobile Websites
When a mobile user goes to your mobile website, you want them to immediately be able to identify that the site they are entering is merely the mobile version of your brand. You don’t want customers, either new or returning ones, to visit your site and be completely unfamiliar with what they are seeing. While the content itself needs to be streamlined, the general aesthetic of the design should very much remain the same. The colors, motifs and basic templates used with your main site should all be identical between both. In fact, the types of icons you use on your standard site should also be the same. Keeping your user-base for your standard site is essential with a mobile one, as it will help to increase traffic and popularize your brand on mobile devices. As such, they should be able to get the same experience and be right at home on the mobile site whenever they visit.
Keep Site Content as Focused as Possible
The biggest aspect of optimizing your website for mobile users is to make sure that the content within can be easily viewed on a smaller screen. This means that everything must be simplified for the users. As this is the case, you will want to go through everything on your main site and choose to display only the most relevant bits of information on each page. For example, when writing a blog post, make sure to break up any long walls of text and break them up into very small paragraphs with headers that are easy to read. A mobile site is where most users go to quickly browse and purchase, which is why it is up to you to make sure that the user can enter your site and purchase whatever they are looking to buy as easily and quickly as possible. You want your mobile site to be viewed as a sleek and simple alternative to your main site. 
Do Not Incorporate Flash Into Your Mobile Site
This is one of the easiest things to overlook when you’re crafting a mobile version of your site. Flash and even JavaScript plugins are not supported on a myriad of different types of phones and mobile devices. In fact, Flash isn’t supported at all by any Apple product, such as an iPhone. However, this isn’t the only reason as to why it’s unwise to use these plugins, as they can make for some very cumbersome load times for mobile users, which is the opposite of what you want to achieve when designing a mobile site. If you must use Java, make sure to do so sparingly and only when it’s absolutely essential.
Keep Customers From Required Text Entry
While many mobile users are proficient at texting, a sizable portion aren’t, which is why it’s important to cater to them as well. Even with those that are good at writing quickly on a small mobile keyboard, it can become tiresome and frustrating to have to fill out a bunch of text entries on a single page. To avoid text entries that a customer would need to fill out, try incorporating clickable checklists, dropdown menus where a user can select from a number of choices and even pre-populated fields. If you are unaware, pre-populated fields are text spaces that are already filled when a user is taken to another page. Each of these can prove extremely useful in lessening the amount at which a user must interact with a single web page, which increases the chances that this user will continue browsing through your site and end up purchasing something. 
Eliminate Usage of Pop-up Windows
While streamlining and simplifying your mobile site is important, nothing is more essential for continued success of your brand than by eliminating intrusive and annoying pop-ups that no one, mobile user or otherwise, likes to deal with. However, while added windows are easy to get to on desktop and laptop devices, they can cause massive slowdown on a mobile device. You should also be aware of the fact that added windows are always a point of frustration with mobile users, as a mobile device is not conducive to switching between multiple tabs. If it is necessary at one or two points within your website, it’s important to make sure that the user understands how to get back to the original page that they were on, which can be accomplished via an alert.
Include Hyperlinks to Full Site
When you’re designing and optimizing a mobile site, it’s important to be aware of the fact that mobile users are rarely ever looking to spend a considerable amount of time on one site. They want to quickly browse through it and decide to purchase something or sign up for a newsletter, depending on what type of site you run. However, you want your standard site to be the one that customers spend the most time on. Having a mobile website is not only useful for making sure you attract mobile users as customers, it’s also a means of increasing brand awareness and loyal customers. You want to make sure that you include clearly visible links to your full site that a mobile user can access at any time. As these users may also want to view some of the information that you didn’t include in the mobile version of your site, this is a simple optimization tip that will do wonders for creating consistent traffic for both your mobile and full site. Don’t forget to include these links on multiple pages.
Understanding Redirects
Redirecting is a very important tool when dealing with the mobile version of your website. In essence, mobile redirecting refers to the act of including a plugin within your site that is able to differentiate between mobile users and standard users. As such, when a mobile user enters the URL to your website, this plugin will be able to identify the fact that this user wants to be taken to the mobile optimized version of your site and will do so automatically. This is a simple step in your design process that will ensure that users don’t become frustrated before even entering your site. 
Increase Ease of Navigation
Similar to some of the tips mentioned earlier, ease of navigation for the user is essential if you want to keep old customers and create new ones. One of the key points towards easy navigation is to limit the amount of clicks that a person has to go through when on the mobile optimized version of your site. For instance, if a person is taking a lengthy survey about the experience they had when using your site, you should do everything you can to avoid instances where a user will have to click or tap on the screen a multitude of times on one page. This isn’t fun or interesting and will only result in the user having a negative experience with your website and, in turn, your brand. Anything that can damage your brand in any way needs to be excised. 
Use Icons Correctly
Icons are important for your full site and your mobile site. Icons can aid greatly in making your mobile website sleek and sophisticated by situating them throughout your site in the place of words, as well as using them to connect to another website. They can even take users to your full site or direct customers to certain web pages throughout your site. These icons should not be too large, but should be clearly visible. This also helps to give your site a more minimalistic and clean feel, which can make your website much more appealing to customers that have never used it before.
Increase Web Site Speeds With Images
No matter the type of website you are creating, having the right images is an all-important facet to giving your brand a personality. However, when optimizing a site for mobile, you will need to optimize the images you are going to use as well. While you might like using high res images for your main website, the bandwidth for many mobile users is much smaller than is needed to effortlessly run these files, which is why you will need to resize and optimize these images to a lower resolution that all mobile users will be able to load properly when entering your site, without them causing longer and more frustrating load times. For example, a mobile resolution can be as low as 240 x 320, which is why you will want to keep every user in mind when planning how to incorporate media files into your site.
Integrate Social Networks
Now, more than ever, integrating social networks into your website, both the main and mobile versions, will help to increase traffic. When a customer likes what they see in your website, all they have to do is click a button on your site to either like your page or write a comment about it. Upon doing so, all of their friends will see this as well, which is an invaluable tactic in bringing in new traffic. Consider placing social network widgets at the top of your web pages, such as Facebook and Twitter. Instagram is another social network that can add limitless amounts of personality to your mobile site, as this specific one is focused primarily on taking pictures, which are already tailored to work on mobile phones. This will allow you to forgo any of the difficult work that comes with trying to make certain pictures work efficiently on mobile devices. This could come in handy when writing blog posts that you are thinking of hosting on your website. 
Test Your Mobile Site
Once everything has been completed and you are busy marveling at all of the optimization you’ve worked through, the last small bit of optimization that you need to consider is taking your new mobile site and testing to see if it works properly in all areas. The worst thing that can happen when placing a new mobile site online is having to work overtime to correct issues that you didn’t know about until after having placed the site into customers hands. To avoid this issue, use a mobile testing tool to see if your site is working correctly in all areas, which includes everything from ensuring that the site is completely responsive across all devices to making sure that the text is readable on smaller devices and that your images and videos load as intended. Upon accomplishing this goal, you will now have a completely optimized mobile site that is more than ready to be put online.
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