5 Ways Online and Mobile Web Design Differ

Online web design and mobile design share many similarities, but they have some significant differences. These differences are essential for web designers to keep in mind, especially when educating their teammates and clients.

Five of the biggest ways that online and mobile web design differ are explained below.

Difference #1: Content

Although online and mobile websites may use some of the same content, mobile websites tend to use fewer lines of text. Why? The answer can be found in the screen size of most mobile devices.

With a smaller screen comes a smaller platform to read information. Paragraphs that are easily-skimmed on traditional websites may look miniscule to mobile users. Instead of using their fingers to make the text larger — and readable, many users may simply leave the site.

Best Practice for Mobile Web Design Content: Look closely at the traditional site’s content, and pare it down to the bare minimum. Keep all the essentials, but remove extras. The fewer words, the better, as long as the mobile site’s content is clear.

Difference #2: General Navigation

On a traditional website, web designers have plenty of room for navigation bars and menus. But on mobile websites, the navigation has to be succinct and unobtrusive.

This is why the hamburger menu — those parallel lines indicating the presence of a menu — is ubiquitous with the mobile experience. By using a small icon that people can click with their fingertips, mobile web designers provide a useful, attractive method of incorporating a drop-down menu into their designs.

Best Practice for Mobile Web Design General Navigation: Use simple language for all your drop-down text. Remember that you may not want to include all the pages that are available at the online website.

Difference #3: Icons

Since space is at a premium when it comes to mobile websites, mobile web designers prefer to utilize icons for common ideas, words, and links whenever possible.

Icons are simply buttons that are recognizable, not to mention much easier to click on using any finger. They enable users to have a better interface experience by lessening the chances of hitting the wrong link and ending up at an unwanted page.

Best Practice for Mobile Web Design Icons: Go with tried and true icons when possible. If you have to make up your own icon, don’t be too innovative. Think universally.

Difference #4: Vertical Navigation

The nature of mobile devices makes it more challenging for users to horizontally navigate websites. Therefore, mobile websites are designed vertically, rather than horizontally.

If you’re not accustomed to designing this kind of website, it may take some trial and error. Don’t worry. The more you do it, the better you will get.

Best Practice for Mobile Web Design Vertical Navigation: Think up and down instead of left to right when storyboarding your mobile website.

Difference #5: Fonts

You may be surprised to learn that many font packages that look spectacular on online websites do not translate to mobile sites. They may seem pixelated or simply be hard to read on mobile devices. Additionally, they may not show up at all, or the characters might be superimposed with non-characters.

Some font packages are upfront about their mobile limitations. Others are not. As a web designer, it’s up to you to do your homework.

Best Practice for Mobile Web Design Fonts: When choosing fonts for mobile sites, make sure they look exactly as you want by testing them before going live. Test on a variety of devices.

Key Takeaways Regarding Mobile and Online Websites

As you continue designing traditional and mobile websites, keep in mind that:

  • Mobile websites are not the same as online websites, although they have some commonalities.
  • People are using mobile devices more frequently to conduct searches. This creates a huge need for mobile website design.
  • Every mobile device has its unique screen size, which may change the look of a mobile website.

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