Ep 33: Designing for Mobile

According to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2021, 85% of Americans own a smartphone of some kind. Additionally, roughly 50% of Americans own a tablet and 75% own a desktop or a laptop. This data highlights just how much content today is being consumed on mobile devices. Designing on mobile comes with unique challenges and obstacles compared to designing for desktops.

One of the most important, if not obvious considerations when designing for mobile is Screen Size. Mobile screens are much smaller than desktop screens, so naturally, the content must be designed and laid out differently. A design created for a desktop won’t always translate seamlessly onto mobile, elements may need to be simplified, or entire sections may need to be removed. It’s important to make note of what you want the user to see and have a strong sense of hierarchy, this is where responsive design comes into play. Responsive design is when you create something that can be adapted to various screen sizes while keeping the core functionality the same.

Another challenge for designing for mobile is User Interaction. Mobile devices use touch-based interfaces to interact with the content, a mouse pointer on a desktop is much smaller and more precise than a finger on a touchscreen, so changes will have to be made when going mobile. For example, buttons may need to be bigger, the menu items might need to be condensed into a single hamburger menu, frequently accessed features might need to be moved to a place that’s easier to touch on a screen, different gestures can also be utilized to do different things. It’s important to understand what the goal of your design is to discover the user flow and interactions that work the best.

One consideration that is often overlooked when designing for mobile is that the overall User Experience is different. Mobile devices usually have slower internet speeds than the desktop device, phones, and tablets are generally used more in places where mobile data signals aren’t as strong. This is important to keep in mind so that designs can be optimized, this means having smaller image sizes, reducing video playback quality, or even removing certain elements that won’t work on a slower connection. Having quick load times is important for user retention and satisfaction, no one wants to wait longer than a few seconds for something to load on their phone or tablet.

Mobile devices are becoming more and more commonplace in our digital world. As designers, it’s our job to make sure that the experience on these devices is just as good as the desktop one. It comes with its unique challenges and obstacles, but a focus on a satisfying user experience through simplicity, responsiveness, and accessibility is key to making a truly enriching mobile experience.