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8 Useful Interface Design Techniques for Mobile Devices

October 11, 2010 • By

You can be the best web designer in the industry, but if you do not know how to properly lay things out and create a great interface for mobile devices, you will fail in such a task. With that said, designing for mobile devices is quite different from designing for mainstream devices such as your PC as screen sizes and resolutions play a big part in how much space you can utilize, and how it performs.

Therefore, we cover eight useful interface design techniques for mobile devices that will help you get started on your quest for designing for mobile platforms.

Layout, Layout, Layout

The layout of the design is what sums it up for accessibility, usability, and overall readability for users on mobile devices. First and foremost, the design needs to be flexible across the mobile devices as all screen sizes and resolutions vary greatly between each and every mobile device.

What that means is, the content needs to scale in size as the screen size and resolution increases or decreases depending upon each device. The layout needs to be touch and key capable for users with touch screens, and for users without them. To go into more depth, let us dive into each of these aspects individually.

Order and Size

These are two major keys to a good user interface for mobile devices. When we mention order, this is referring to the order or sequence in which each element within design is laid out. For example, the order of buttons, text boxes, links, etc. This is actually very important for many mobile platforms for the way they react with your design. Therefore, assure the order of the elements within the design or layout are ordered in the way intended for use, and skip out on the fancy ordering techniques you may have for web design on mainstream platforms.

The size of content is also a big deal for many mobile platforms. Make sure the links and buttons are of fair size for those who have touch screen devices as each person’s finger varies in size, a good-sized button will help make it easier for all of your users to navigate about. You need to remember that the small link sizes or button sizes you make for normal website designs for mice and keyboards is a lot different than actually using your finger or a keypad to navigate around, so assure to cope for the differences.

Hierarchy of Importance

On a mobile device, screen space is a limited resource and thus you need to use it wisely. With that said, you need to eliminate clutter as much as possible, and one way to do this is to set your content in hierarchy format. Set content apart by playing around with the font size, weight, color, and the likes. You want the content to speak for itself rather than describe it before it runs. By doing so, you are eliminating unneeded elements and clutter from the layout and or design and increasing on needed space and using the space for quality content.

Lightweight

You need to remember that when users are visiting your website from a mobile device, they are visiting the website to view the content, and not the fancy layout you may have put together for non-mobile devices. Therefore, you need to eliminate all the unneeded fancies and stick to a lightweight layout that clearly presents content in an organized fashion.To put it into perspective, imagine yourself in a hurry trying to load a website and run to a meeting.

As the website is loading all sorts of fancies need to load, you need to scroll through a long header, and the likes. When you are in a hurry to obtain information before dashing to a meeting, you do not care for these fancies, you just want the information you were looking for. Similarly, users who visit websites on mobile devices are also after the content, and not the fancies you may surround it by.

Important Content

Your website can consist of a whole genre of goodies; however, before bringing everything to the mobile platform via the web, you need to eliminate some of this content, to make the website load quicker. Therefore, only port over essentials that make up your website and what your users are mainly visiting your website for.

Offer a Simple Navigation

Many mobile devices and platforms do not offer a browser with too many navigational features such as a back button. Therefore it is a good idea to offer these essentials in a simplistic form within your website’s mobile version for easier navigation, but do not over do it as it can slow down the loading time significantly, and effect vital screen space.

Do Not Use Tables

Do not use tables for your mobile website designs as the main structure for your design. They often do not look or work very well with many mobile platforms. Therefore, the best option to getting your website’s mobile version working and looking well across many mobile platforms is to utilize the basics of CSS to get the design styled.

Platform Detections

One great way to making the most out of your website’s mobile version is to detect different platforms and offer different versions of the website for them. For example, the iPhone platform is very flexible in terms of design capabilities that you can provide versus other platforms.

Therefore, if you want to make the most out of different platforms for your users, detecting their platforms and providing different content and capabilities for them is a great idea. Additionally, this also helps make your fallback mobile website version a lot simpler with less content to assure it can work on older mobile devices or platforms as well.

Overall, you need to understand the mobile devices limitations before being able to create and develop around them. This helps greatly to better understand the mobile platform and how your website’s mobile version may appear across these multiple platforms. You can also test your website’s mobile version or versions using simulators and or emulators sometimes provided by the platform developers.

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