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Category Archives: Mobile

Google Search – Is Your Website Mobilegeddon Ready?

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Google Algorithm Update

Come 21st of April, Google will roll out its new “Mobile Friendly” algorithm update which will preference search results for web sites that are mobile friendly.

For your websites, this simply means you’ll get left out in mobile search results unless your website is deemed by Google bots to be mobile friendly.

But wait!

How should you know if my site is ready for mobilegeddon? Fortunately Google, being Google, has already foreseen the outcry of website owners if they opted to bring their algorithm guessing game to such an important update so they’ve actually rolled out more than enough tools to help you prepare for this big day.

Without further delay, here are the tools and information you’ll need to be able to do a self-diagnosis of your site in preparation for mobilegeddon:

  1. Mobile-Friendly Test – just simply put in your website URL and hit analyze and you’ll know within seconds if your site is up to speed. Hopefully you’ll get a result like so:Mobile-Friendly Test
  2. Google Webmaster Tools Mobile Usability Report – This is another tool that will help webmasters identify elements of your website that does not fit Google’s mobile friendly standards, because it could be that some NOT ALL your pages have problems. Errors here should be addressed if you want to keep up on mobile search results.Here’s an example result for good measure:Mobile Usability
  3. Mobile Friendly Guidelines – In the case you’ll find yourself in the undesirable side of this update, after using the previously mentioned tools, fret not as here’s all you need to be able to get back in the good light of Google mobile search results.

Remember, this is not just about penalties but also about rewards. A more mobile friendly web site will be rewarded as much as a non-mobile site is penalised.

And as always, if you need help in keeping up with all these changes, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us any time.

Questions To Answer When Designing Website Navigation

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Organising content for a website calls for designers to ask key questions on their planned Information Architecture (IA). Usability experts the Nielsen Norman Group (NN/g) broke down these problems, providing answers to the 3 most persistent questions many designers today struggle with when building sites.

How Many Categories do you Need?

The general rule of thumb is to have enough categories to show all the information offered on your site or app. However, what’s considered ‘enough’ will greatly depend on the content and intention of a site.

Most simple sites with a small range of content will usually do fine with a few categories. This minimalist approach helps users find the information they want as quickly as possible. Take for instance, Dyson’s website for their Airblade line of products (the Dyson Airblade is the company’s take on the quick hand dryer). The entire website has a solid IA scheme since all variations of the Airblade fit into 5 categories.

Dyson airblade homepage

Dyson Airblade Homepage

At the other end of the spectrum is RestroomDirect, a site that also sells hand dryers as well as a bunch of other fixtures for public bathrooms. Condensing all information on the site down to 5 categories makes it difficult for customers to find information on the company’s full range of products, which is why the site features 7 links in the top horizontal navigation, and 17 product categories in the vertical navigation. This combination allows users to easily access all relevant information on the site as efficiently as possible.

Restroom Direct

www.RestroomDirect.com

Both examples show the basic principle behind determining the appropriate number of categories in a website: go with what makes it easiest for users to access the information they need; don’t box yourself in by trying to hit a predetermined number.

Should you List Categories in Alphabetical Order?

Organising categories by a certain order is another issue frequently tackled by designers, many of whom feel that sorting categories alphabetically makes the most sense.

Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to this problem, but what you can do is consider the following factors:

  1. What organising principle would be more meaningful than sorting alphabetically?
  2. Will visitors be familiar with the category names
  3. How many categories do you have?

More Meaningful Organising Principles

One approach that makes more sense than alphabetical organisation is frequency of use, which helps the majority of visitors on a site access the information they’re most likely looking for.

An example of this can be found on RightMove.co.uk, a property listing that has the categories For Sale and To Rent as the first two items in the navigation panel. This setup saves users a tremendous amount of time, since it makes sense to highlight content users are most likely to click on.

Rightmove

If you were to organise categories on this site alphabetically, you would get the unintuitive result below.

Rightmove labels

Standard Labels

However, there are instances when alphabetical organisation is more efficient. If you have categories under just one label (e.g. product names or brand names), users naturally look for information they know, like a particular word—alphabetical organisation is more helpful in this situation.

Do you Need Hover Menus with Touch Devices

With the advent of mobile devices that rely on touch interfaces, UX designers are wondering whether sites should still have hover nav menus.

Hover activated menus are unwieldy for touchscreen users. Even with menus adapted for use with a tap instead of a hover, touchscreens are just too small to display an entire menu. This can result in problems scrolling the menu without deactivating it by touch something else on the page.

However, just because a part of your audience can’t use this feature, doesn’t mean you should withhold it from everyone else. Hover activated menus are still easy to use on conventional desktop interfaces.

The key here is graceful degradation: ensure that customers who can’t use hover activation still have a means of accessing your content. A good example of this setup can be found on the Fedex website, which provides both hover and tap options for all their users, whether on traditional desktop interfaces or touchscreens.

Fedex

The full Fedex website has hover-activated menus

Fedex mobile version

The mobile version of the Fedex site automatically replaces hover menus with a simpler tap interface

As always good website design is about taking in to account your audience and how you can get them to the information they are looking for quickly and easily. It is worth spending time in the initial concept phase on these types of questions to avoid costly redesign and coding later on.  Need help with your site, want an objective review? Contact Enform today.

Web Design – A Humorous Look at Some Potential Pitfalls…

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Inspired by Matthew Inman from The Oatmeal with his blog “How a web design goes straight to hell

Web design starts with the best intentions however sometimes personal taste can de-rail the process. At Enform we believe there can be a compromise between what the client wants and what the designer delivers.  But, most importantly focusing on what the user or usomer might want or need.

It is our role to inform our clients on current best practice and provide advice on what will and won’t work  – keeping in mind modern web design needs to:

  • Engage visitors – be visually appealing and easy to navigate
  • Relevance to what the visitor wants – within the first few seconds it should be obvious who you are and what you offer
  • Allow the above irrespective of device they use to access your site – mobile responsive

With all the best intentions in the world the process sometimes goes off track.

Matthew Inman, creator of The Oatmeal, once worked as a web designer. He is now a comic artist with considerable influence, and he compiled his experiences with difficult web design in a comic featured below.

In it, Inman describes the nine steps to the making of a web design disaster, and how clients unwittingly (or wittingly) cause it. We shortened those steps into four for you:

Step 1. All Is Well

Inman writes: “Everything is cool in the beginning.” It’s like the start of many relationships – the clients summarize their needs and the designer tells the client what to expect. If the clients have an existing web site for improvement, they show it to the designer, telling him or her that the previous designer was an idiot.

Toast_original

Step 2. The Initial Design

The designer shows the clients the initial design for comments and approval. Initial designs are expected to be further improved based on the clients’ input. To Inman, this is the high point of the whole process. Then everything goes downhill from there.

Toast_design

Step 3. The Client “Helps Out”

The client suggests his or her ideas for improvement. The designer complies. The client suggests more changes. They may even bring in other people to comment. These can happen several times in the web design process and indeed this step is normal in any collaboration. The result can be something both the client and the designer can be proud of. Or as is sometimes the case, the whole thing can turn into a proverbial “dogs breakfast” trying to satisfy too many different tastes, agendas resulting in a loss of clarity on key concept of the initial design.

Web Design - Some Potential Pitfalls

Step 4: The Design Fails

Intial Design VS Final Design

 

At this point, the designer may be having a nervous breakdown. Get another designer and repeat.

 

A mouse cursor controled by speaking

 

Takeaway

A lot of anguish could be avoided if clients, at the outset, treat a designer as an expert with valuable experiences and opinions that can help the clients achieve the needs of their web site. Designers should not be treated as mere helping hands or worse, just tools to do the clients’ bidding:

Too many cooks spoil the broth – especially when the cooks do not know how to cook.

The main point is this: respect designers as experts in their field. They know what works and what doesn’t. Sure, you could collaborate with the designer to create the best site ever but, if you don’t actually possess good design sense (and you must be honest enough to recognize this), do not hobble the designer with requests that are impossible.

Right at the start of the project, communicate your needs for the web site clearly to the designer. Usually, he or she will tell you if what you want is OK or not.

Whatever you do, always have mutual respect between you and the designer. It is a key ingredient to every successful design project.

At Enform we believe in delivering what a client wants but ensuring we advise and understand any implications that may affect our 3 initial key points on what a web design needs to achieve:

  • Engage visitors – be visually appealing and easy to navigate
  • Relevance to what the visitor wants – within the first few seconds it should be obvious who you are and what you offer
  • Allow the above irrespective of device they use to to access your site – mobile responsive

Contact us if you need advice on your design.

Making Sense of Responsive Web Design For Mobile

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responsive web design

Responsive web design, or RWD for short, is a relatively new approach in web development wherein a website is designed to be capable of making dynamic changes to its appearance depending on the screen size and orientation of the device used to view the site/page.

RWD was conceived as a solution to designing for the growing number of devices capable of connecting to the web, which range from small smartphones, tablet devices, to traditional, large desktop monitors.

Designers use breakpoints in RWD to determine a site/page layout’s appearance, with one design above the breakpoint, and another used below it. These breakpoints usually depend on the browser’s width.

The same HTML code is used across all kinds of devices, with CSS used to change the layout and appearance of the page depending on the device used. Instead of creating a completely separate website and code for each device and screen size out there, RWD offers a single code base to support differently sized view ports.

This results in a design wherein page elements reshuffle depending on the view port’s size. For instance, a 3-column design for a desktop will shift to a 2-column design when viewed on a tablet, or into a 1-column design on a smartphone. Responsive design is hinged on proportion-based grids to reshuffle web content and design elements.

Common Problems

While responsive web design can be an effective solution to provide equal access to users on different devices, it can also lead to hiding some design elements out of necessity. This is common with background images, which have to be omitted when moving to smaller screens. When faced with the problem of hiding content and page functions, as well as altering the appearance of pages for device types, it’s important to base your decisions on information about your users and their needs.

Figure a. -3-column Design

Figure a. – 3-column Design

Figure b. -2-column and 1-column Design

Figure b. – 2-column and 1-column Design

An example of responsive design. Figure a. shows a 3-column design for desktop screens, while Figure b. shows a 2-column and 1-column design for tablets and smartphones respectively. 

Performance Issues

Performance can be a problem with RWD. Because it offers the same code regardless of device type, meaning a 5-inch phone gets the same code as 24-inch desktop display, it’s possible to run into performance problems, what with smartphones relying on a slower data connection.

It’s important to remember that changes in design occur on the client-side, so don’t test your designs in a controlled environment. Test your RWD in real environments, like outside where connectivity can be spotty and several factors come into play.

Usable Responsive Web Design

Since responsive design involves shuffling elements on a website, both design and development teams need to work together in order to create a usable web experience across all devices. RWD can be akin to solving a puzzle—figuring out how to shuffle around elements on larger screens to fit into smaller, longer displays, and vice versa.

However, it’s not just about making sure things fit. More importantly, it should be about making the design usable across different screen sizes and resolutions. With various site elements moving around the page, the user experience can be fragmented between devices, hence the importance of design and development teams coming together to evaluate the result of an RWD.

Responsive web design

Responsive web design options

Prioritizing Content

Another important aspect in RWD is content prioritization. This usually isn’t a problem with desktops, since more content is visible without scrolling on a large display. On smartphones however, the limited real estate eliminates the choice users have of looking around the page to find the content they want; designers and developers must now serve the content they deem most important to users, and place in an area of premium visibility.

The last thing mobile users want is to scroll endlessly down a page to find information of interest.

Bottom Line

It’s important to remember that responsive design is only a tool, not the final cure to device fragmentation. Many webmasters make the mistake of believing RWD to be perfect, it’s a solution and it doesn’t always ensure a usable experience. The techniques for common user experience are there, but designers and developers must hone them to support users across multiple devices.

 

Designing for Multiple Devices? Keep it Simple.

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mobile-devices-responsive-design

Usability experts Nielsen Norman Group (NN/g) believe the key to effective mobile design is simplicity.

Keeping it simple means taking into consideration the communication channel’s capacity and we’re not just talking hardware or bandwidth.

Claude Shannon was the man responsible for introducing some decades ago, the concept of information theory, which not only revolutionised concepts in signal processing, but also having sweeping affects across other disciplines, ranging from artificial intelligence, computer science, and even cognitive psychology.

One idea stemming from information theory revolved around how communication systems consist of modules linked through limited-capacity communication channels.

In information theory, the communication system is the most basic concept, consisting of the following:

  • Two modules, the information source and a destination
  • A communication channel that channels data from the source to destination.

The communication system has a specific limit on the amount of information it can send to and from the source and destination. For example, a local area network connecting two computers is essentially a communication system; in this case the network bandwidth, or the amount of data that can be channelled between the two machines is the channel capacity.

Let’s say you have a 20 Mbps Internet connection, this means your computer can receive 50 million bits per second through the local network—this is the channel capacity

When people use a computer or mobile device, they are basically forming a communication system consisting of two modules (the user and computing device) and a communication system relaying information between them.

Therefore, the channel capacity depends on the combined capabilities and quality of the device and people using it.

These variables include:

  • The user’s working memory
  • The level of attention given by the user to the communication
  • Screen size of the device

NN/g analysed how these characteristics come together to influence mobile design, doing so with the goal of determining just how much information a user internalizes when interacting with information on their screens.

mobile-auto-parts

User Working Memory and its Effects on the Communication Channel Capacity

When someone listens to a lecture, that person depends on his memory to retain and process the information shared by the speaker with stock knowledge or other points of interest discussed in the lecture.

In this example, a person’s working memory is in overdrive, granted he’s paying attention. His mind is busy remembering the information presented before him to understand further points of interested introduced as the lecture moves forward.

This process is similar to how users browse the web and keep information about their goals ‘floating’ in their working memory. This can be anything from “Looking for cheap flights out of the country” to “I am looking for cheap prices on a product.” A user’s working memory is also active when retaining contextual information about a website, about the webpage being viewed, and about the site’s layout and interface.

This means that the channel capacity of the human–device communication system depends largely on a user’s working memory, which in turn means that overloading a user with too much new information (e.g. complex or unusual web content) inhibits the quality of communication.

Screen Size and its Effects on Communication Channel Capacity

When a user fails to comprehend the content shown on a website, he usually looks at the other information found on the screen/page. This means the size of a screen has a direct effect on how much information users can see at once on their devices, before scrolling down or moving to a different page.

As such, it can be said that the capacity of the communication channel in the human–device information system depends heavily on screen size. Common sense tells us that the bigger a screen’s size, the more information relayed between device and user.

This is one of the major challenges in designing mobile pages, which NN/g notes, is twice as hard than designing desktop content. Due to size constraints, users have to depend more on their working memory to retain information on the page, but not visible to their eyes (as is the case when a user scrolls up and down).

Attention and its Effects on Communication Channel Capacity

The level of attention given by the user to the device also affects the capacity of the communication channel. Although the portability of mobile devices means people are more likely to use them everywhere, the chances of them being interrupted are also higher than using a desktop, say at home or work.

And with users expecting information on their mobile devices to be quick and easy to consume, their attention spans have become poorer.

The Problem with Mobile Design

When designing for different screen sizes, it’s important to first consider the capacity of the communication channel. Although there aren’t really any hard rules on which way to approach mobile design, all attempts to solve mobile constraints take into account the limited channel capacity of the platform.

The most popular approach to multi-device design is responsive design, which aims to provide the same functions and content across all types of devices. This design addresses the capacity problem by splicing the site into cells on a fluid grid, changing the layout of these cells when on a smaller screen in such a way that the importance of the content on each cell is considered.

In a nutshell, responsive design deliver the same content through a narrower communication channel, allowing all the content to be available even on smaller screens. However, this also means that users will have to work harder and use their working memory more to navigate through the site with the amount of information on the smaller real estate.

Keep it Simple

Given the limitations of channel capacity in mobile design, a simple app or barebones mobile webpage works best with users, as they don’t have to work hard to reach their goals. Simple mobile designs are capable of circumventing both attention and working memory limitations when using a mobile device, as well as screen size issues.

However, it’s also important that designers understand that simple interfaces for mobile devices is not a one-size-fits-all matter. What works for a smartphone will not necessarily work on a tablet or desktop, which is why blown-up phone apps get a lot of flak.

The Future

The future of the Internet and computing lies in an ecosystem of interconnected devices ranging from smartphones, tablets, TVs, wearable tech like watches and eyeglasses, and even smart ‘home devices’ like thermostats, and light bulbs.

NN/g believes that there’s a need for a unfied theory for web design across all screen sizes, something that doesn’t only focus on the common denominator across these devices, because ultimately, the variety of devices out there will expand, and very soon designers will have to tackle scaling web content not just for tablets and phones, but also smartwatches.

Majority of Email Opens Take Place on Mobile Devices Studies Show

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image1 (2)

Over the last year we have seen multiple studies from firms like Experian Marketing Services and Yesmail showing an interesting and important trend: the number of people opening their emails on mobile devices continues to rise, with 50 percent or more email opens occurring on the mobile platform.

As the year comes to an end, yet another study by Return Path, yields similar findings. Their research shows that in December 2013, 51 percent of email opens happened on some kind of mobile device. The study also marks the first time ever that Return Path has observed mobile email opens getting a majority of the platform share.

Most notably, the highest percentage (62 percent) of mobile email opens occurred over Christmas, likely caused by the deluge of holiday greetings and shopping transactions made by consumers. Perhaps

Similar Findings by IBM: Online Shopping

tablet

Further supporting this, IBM also reported having 48 percent of all online shopping traffic coming from mobile devices on Christmas day. Results are up by 28.3 percent compared to Christmas Day in 2012, while also surpassing the traffic share of last year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping blitzes. Mobile also accounted for 29 percent of all online sales on Christmas Day for IBM, showing a significant increase of 40 percent compared to last year.

Other noteworthy findings by IBM include a clear pattern—and a continuing trend—indicating more purchases happen on tablet devices, with browsing occurring predominantly on smartphones. IBM’s research shows smartphones account for more traffic compared to tablets, at 28.5 percent and 18.1 percent respectively, but account for only half as many sales, at 9.3 percent and 19.4 percent respectively.

More Shopping Traffic on iOS than Android

android-caotic-android-vs-ios-1

Another interesting find by IBM is how iOS devices reportedly drove more than twice as much shopping traffic, compared to Android devices on Christmas Day, at 32.6 percent versus 14.8. Return Path also showed a similar disparity, this time on the email front. The market research firm found that 86 percent of mobile opens happened on an iOS device on Christmas day—58 percent of opens occurred on an iPhone, 28 percent on an iPad.

A similar study by Movable Ink also found a major imbalance between emails opened on Android and iOS mobile devices.

More Findings

It also comes as no big surprise that Return Path found that the majority of email messages on mobile devices were opened on weekends and holidays, while emails opened on traditional desktop computers spiked during Mondays. In other words, mobile opens happened when people were away from work, and desktop opens while at work.

For Internet service providers (ISPs) and email service clients in the United States, vast increases in email opens occurred on Gmail in December, which Return Path correlated to a recent change Google made to display images, which are now enabled by default.

If anything, these findings show what we’ve been telling our clients throughout the previous year, that is, not to forget to design emails for the mobile format. Mobile email opens are no longer just a trend—they’re here to stay, and will only continue to grow.

Smartphones used more frequently in household with kids

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How often do you use your smartphone, and what do you mainly use it for? Do you have children at home with you? If so, have you considered that there might be a correlation between the two?

A study by Harris Interactive shows that smartphone owners living with children at home are more likely to use their mobile devices for a variety of uses compared to those without kids. The study outlines that smartphone users living with children are more likely to engage regularly in the following activities than those without kids:

  • Downloading and buying apps, music and videos
  • Researching about products and services
  • Purchasing products and services

It should be pointed out though, that the order of popularity of these activities is largely similar between the two groups, even with the gaps in engagement.

Closer Look at Results

The Harris Interactive reported the following numbers on these discrepancies, showing that smartphone users living than kids are:

  • 16 percent more likely to use maps and navigation apps on their smartphones
  • 16 percent more likely to download free apps and other content
  • 22 percent more likely to be on a social media site or app
  • 19 percent more likely to play games
  • 38 percent more likely to be looking up information about products and services
  • 39 percent more likely to buy apps and other content

Although we at Enform found that the survey from Harris Interactive doesn’t say anything about whether respondents with kids in the household were actually parents, another study, this time from Ipsos MediaCT shows that parents actually have an adoption rate of web-connected devices that’s well above average. This seems to suggest that being with kids has a correlation with technology habits.

So what exactly does the survey mean? Good question. We at Enform like to believe that time constraints and busy schedules are encouraging people living with children to multitask; that is, to do more with just one device.

Whereas the average Internet user living alone at home probably has time to engage in online activities across other devices, users living with children probably have to do things on their smartphones alone.