Did you know that 56% of the world’s population has a internet ready phone? About half of these people use their mobile device as the primary vehicle to access the internet.

What does your website look like on a mobile phone? Perhaps you should ask your customers! There should be no question that your site needs to look good and function smoothly on a mobile device. But what does that look like in practice? Here are a few “best practices” to consider when designing for a mobile device.

Difference between a mobile website and desktop site

Say no to zooming!

Nothing is more annoying than having to pinch and zoom, squint and peer at a website, fighting and hunting to find that one tidbit of info you want. We’ve all been there and experienced the frustration. A mobile website should optimize the data to be clearly displayed upon rendering, with zero zooming.

Less Wow factor

This is a difficult one to explain. Due to slower download speeds, the more direct focus of mobile users and less screen real estate, much of the added flair or style seen on desktop sites can quickly become distracting to a mobile user. While animation and the like does have a place, it should be subtle and secondary to the content of the page. Be careful of overloading the page with images (which can be slow to download as well) and consider image scaling where possible.

Forms

Forms can be a nuisance on a phone. Typos, small keyboards and the like make forms annoying and frustrating. If you must have forms on your mobile website, use drop downs where possible, autofill data if possible and design specifically for the mobile screen. Split forms into smaller sections to make it feel more conquerable.

Mobile website vrs desktop website design

Design

As mentioned above, mobile design should be subtle and minimalistic. But that doesn’t mean that design doesn’t exist. Mobile design should lead the user, support the user but never distract the user or take away from the functionality of the site. Mobile users are rarely just browsing. They have a purpose and direction. Whether it is to make a purchase, find directions or research a specific product, figure out what they want and design your site with that purpose in mind. For example, over half of consumer searching on the mobile phone are looking for directions. Feature your address prominently.

Standardized user experience

Along the same lines, mobile design best practices make use of standard mobile user experience features such as click to call buttons, interactive maps, slide out menus or hamburgers menus. Users understand these features and appreciate the familiarity.

All in all, it’s important to keep two things in mind when designing for the mobile device: User Experience and Functionality. These two must supersede all else. Ask yourself whether your mobile design works well, does it feel comfortable, smooth and create a sense of ease? A mobile design is less about pixel perfection, but more fluid and flexible, leaving room for the constantly changing market that is mobile tech.

Want to know more? Check out some mobile stats for 2013 here and here.