What’s different about usability when designing for use on a mobile device compared to a Web site? The principles are the similar, however, there are some differences about mobile that make for new usability challenges.
Steve Krug in his book Don’t Make Me Think Revisited, summed up usability best as follows: “A person of average (or even below average) ability and experience can figure out how to use the thing [i.e., it’ s learnable] to accomplish something [effective] without it being more trouble than it’s worth [efficient].”
Web and app design for mobile devices is still in its “Wild West” days. It will be interesting to see how things evolve, as technology keeps changing at a rapid pace.
There are however some things that will hold true.
Small space – There’s no getting around the fact that mobile devices are small. Information and functionality must intersect at the right point to deliver optimal usability.
Scalable design – Mobile devices today come in all shapes and sizes. Design considerations must be responsive to all mobile screen sizes and browser types.
Visual cues – These are of the utmost importance when you want the user to take a “call to action” within a limited space. For example, an upward pointing arrow can convey the message “tap here for more information” without using the valuable real estate to say so.
Interface features – It’s obvious that a mouse is not tethered to a mobile device. Therefore, interface features that were once prevalent on traditional Web sites, such as “mouse hover”, are now becoming obsolete with mobile design.
It’s clear that mobile is not going away and it is the wave of the future. It provides great opportunities to create usable things. New technologies are being introduced all the time with some of them significantly impacting the way we interact.