Despite the fact that the last event seems like only a few months ago it’s nearly time again for Mobile World Congress, as usual there are a raft of competitions around offering tickets to lucky entrants so I thought I’d collate the ones I’ve come across here.
For anyone unfamiliar with MWC, it’s an annual coming together of the entire mobile industry from network operators (MNOs), manufacturers such as Samsung, LG, Nokia, HTC, software and services companies like Google, and a whole host of companies making apps, accessories, etc. Having been once (see my MWC Impressions post), it’s quite an experience and well worth going if you can make it.
Anyway, on to the list – if you spot any I’ve missed please leave a comment and I’ll bump it up into the post.
- Appscend (you have to build an app with them to enter)
- TechWeekEurope (sign up to newsletter)
- Mobile Monday London (send in a reason why you should win!)
- Developer Garden (just a tweet)
- Click Software
It’s not always obvious when the open/closed dates are so I apologise if any of the above are no longer valid, please leave a comment if you find that to be the case and I’ll remove the link.
Today Ofcom released a report covering mobile phone usage in the UK, the report is largely aimed at determining how Quality of Service relates to consumer behaviour and how poor coverage affects the customer experience. The report covers voice, SMS, email, internet and video calling but I’m most interested in the mobile web and apps, so I’ll focus primarily on the Internet results. The survey was conducted in November 2012 and sampled 2,136 adults aged 16 and over from England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The report shows that only 44% of consumers use the internet via their mobile phone and of those, this seems quite low based on personal experience but that could be down to bias from working in the technology sector. Of those people that use the Internet on their phone 50% do so more than five times per day (with 33% reporting 10+ times per day). The implication being that there is a demographic relying on their mobile for everyday tasks, especially when coupled with the result that 71% of people saying that it is important for them to use the internet whilst outside.
Naturally there is a skew towards the younger end of the market with 86% of respondents between 16 and 34 that use the internet doing so on a daily basis. Additionally whilst 7% of all users rated the ability to use the internet as the most important factor whilst thinking about their mobile operator this rose to 14% for the 16-35 age group and drops to 2% for the 55+ group.
Reliability is a problem for internet users with 47% being satisfied with their operator, this is poor compared to voice and SMS usage which received a 74% satisfaction rate. Furthermore 34% of consumers reported having experienced no signal/reception (10% frequently) and an additional 15% reported an inability to use the mobile internet.
In terms of non-Internet usage there weren’t too many unexpected results, the only surprising outcome of the survey to me was that 12% of respondents have used video calling and 25% do so on a daily basis – making 3% of all people using video calling on a daily basis. The full report (33 pages) can be found here: source.
Everyone knows the key mantra for designing mobile web sites – “keep it simple” but there are some tips and tricks that will help to create a great user experience for mobile visitors…
- Capture mobile users from the full site – if your full site isn’t rendering well on mobile devices how are people going to find the link to your mobile site? Put in place a redirect to a mobile optimised layout though it’s worth remembering that redirects could also be annoying to users that wanted to see your main site so…
- Provide a link back to your full site – this could be in the footer or as a landing page but in some cases the user may be trying to achieve something not possible on a slimmed-down mobile site or they may be on a tablet that is incorrectly being recognised as a mobile device.
- Consider multiple mobile layouts - you could have a theme that optimises content specifically for iPhone and Android, leaving the other mobile users with a plainer but still small-screen optimised site. Figure out what your audience is likely to be using and target that but don’t forget to tweak and customise the site after you’ve gone live based on the type of devices your users are actually using which will change over time.
- Use appropriate input types – if you are asking the user to provide email address or usernames via a form it can be difficult for them to enter correctly if autocomplete is turned on, similarly it would be better to provide the numeric keypad if you are asking for a telephone number and you usually would not want . You can provide this functionality with a mix of the <input> tag and the autocapitalize property, there are a whole host of other possibilities including length checking and regular expressions but bear in mind not every device will respect these features.
- Avoid scrolling – pagination vs. scrolling has long been a debate in web design circles but if you want to provide your users with a more ‘app-like’ experience the key elements to your site should fit adequately on the page without the need for scrolling. This may not apply to content but if the user is being asked to follow through a process or provide a series of inputs it will be much clearer to the user what they have to do if it fits on one page, equally…
- Avoid clutter – if you have pages with little content it may be worth ensuring that any non-essential (but for whatever reason required) footer information sits below the bottom of the screen to avoid clutter, at the very least you should consider a little trailing white space followed by a dividing line to clearly separate the content from the footer.
- Consider the user’s goal – you might be falling over yourself to provide content or services to your mobile users but is that what they really want? Consider whether or not the user might have other goals in visiting your site and show how they can be achieved, even if that is not via your mobile site. For example, it may be helpful to include a ‘contact us’ or a telephone/email link on at least the first page if not every page.
- Don’t be annoying – it’s the little things that tend to irritate users and on a mobile device this is magnified since they are already compromising on screen size and input capability. For example, pre-fillling forms with help text may mean that the user is going to have to delete that text to enter their own – irritating enough on a desktop and even more so on a mobile device.
- Device testing is essential – there are dozens of emulators and simulators for mobile devices but nothing will ever match testing on devices, it is very tempting as a developer to test primarily on a desktop but it really isn’t the same as holding a small device at arm’s length and using a tiny keyboard to provide input. During your testing phase have someone with a very critical eye run through your site to check for any minor irritations, make sure to tell them to be ruthless in their criticism.
I hope that provides some useful information to those of you starting out with the mobile web and of course, much of this is up for debate so do get in touch if you disagree or have content to add. The list is not intended to be exhaustive and over the next few months I’ll add posts on testing and more technical aspects of the process.
I recently attended the Over The Air mobile conference at Bletchley Park (please donate), the event was free to attend and very well organised with plenty of free food and drink as a bonus. My focus for the conference was the mobile web and I’ve compiled links to topics mentioned in presentations I attended in that area, they’re well worth a look so I thought I’d share them here…
Responsive Web Design
- Responsive Web Design Article
- Pragmatic Responsive Design
- Responsive Images code on github
- Presentation on Media Queries
- Good presentation by Opera guy
- Using the viewport meta tag to control layout on mobile browsers
- YSlow Firefox Extension – shows why pages load slowly
- Full Opera Mobile Web Optimization Guide
- Making an iPad HTML5 App and Making it Really Fast
Some W3C links…
- Mobile Web Best Practices 1.0
- Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
- Relationship between MWBP and WCAG