Friday, 21 November 2014

Navigation and mobile devices

The navigation menu is one of the most important design elements on any website. Users appreciate a sense of orientation and need a guide to take them beyond the homepage before the inclination to leave arises.
As the use of internet on mobile devices has grown at a phenomenal rate, the question has arisen as to how to design a the optimum navigation system for your mobile website. 
A good place to start is to examine the well accepted principles for a good desktop navigation system.
That is, use simple, precise language so that it’s obvious what paths users need to follow to access the information they’re looking for and don’t overwhelm them with extensively long menu lists – four to seven menu items is the widely accepted ideal.
When considering navigation on mobile devices we have to consider the limitations that mobile pose. Despite an ongoing trend towards larger screen resolution, mobile screens are still much smaller than screen real estate allocated to traditional desktops.
Also, mobile users’ needs are different. They’re often on the move, not grazing information but rather seeking something specific – whether that be the location of a venue or business, looking for account information or pages that they need to access before they walk head on into a telegraph pole with their eyes glued firmly to the screen. The key takeaway here is that mobile users needs are usually immediate and their attention span not entirely focussed on the task of negotiating a complex navigation system.
mobile users needs are usually immediate and their attention span not entirely focussed on the task of negotiating a complex navigation system
So what can you do to your mobile navigation to meet the unique needs of mobile users?
  • Start by reducing your menu buttons to a minimum. You may have to use an abbreviated version of your full desktop navigation but the idea is to limit the number of clicks a user has to make to get to access information they they’ll need when using a mobile.
  • Provide an easy to see and use search feature. It’s a great way to shortcut the navigation process and acts as a backup for even the most frustrated and impatient user.
  • Consider that mobile internet is largely used in portrait. When you design your navigation, design it for vertically vs horizontal alignment by using stackable buttons.
  • When faced with the limitation of space on a mobile screen perhaps icons are a better solution instead of lengthy words that may increase the size of the menu.
  • Rather than show the whole navigation all the time, use a clearly marked menu button that drops out nested navigation items when clicked. The navigation may overlay the site or perhaps push it to the side and then slide back once a menu item has been selected.
  • Instead of using words to denote the menu selection, use a nav burger. These three stacked lines are growing in popularity across many mobile sites and users are becoming more and more familiar with this icon and its meaning.
  • Lastly, make sure your menu options are big enough for even the fattest thumbs to clumsily click on. No one users a stylus anymore – design the size of your clickable areas accordingly.
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