Mobile usability principles

23 September 2011Ben Latham

Place buttons where a thumb can easily reach them

Steve Krug’s first law of usability is “Don’t Make Me Think” by which he means don’t force people to think unnecessarily when using your website. The sentiment holds true when building a mobile site or app too. Here are some top tips for designing for mobile:

Don’t re-invent the wheel

Keep it simple and use visual cues people are already familiar with to ensure users don’t have to think.

Thumbs rule on mobile

Think about the way you wrap your fingers around a phone and use it. Your thumbs do a lot of the work, so big and well spaced on-screen buttons are essential. Apple recommends a minimum of 44×44 pixels for a button.

Comfort Zone

Most users hold a phone with their right hand and there’s an area of the screen that’s not easy to reach – or is obstructed by your thumb. Don’t put key action buttons or important information in this area, where it could get lost.

Device neutrality

Understand the target demographics of your audience and research the devices they use. Use web analytics as a guide to see what mobile devices are currently popular, but future proof it as mobile technology is evolving rapidly.

Landscape vs Portrait

Understand what screen resolutions you’re designing for and remember a mobile works in both landscape and portrait modes. Are you happy for your screen to wrap the content? Or do you need to produce two wireframes: one for the landscape view and one for the portrait.

Ben Latham

Ben is a professional marketer with a wealth of experience developed over an extensive career in retail marketing. Ben spends a lot of time focussed on the user journey and blogs about usability and web conversion.

  1. Articles like this really grease the shafts of knolwegde.

    • Mobile is developing all the time, and it’s important to continually challenge not only the usability of your mobile site, but the overall business objectives, to understand why you have one in the first place