The Mobile Web → FIND ←

Friday, 23 December 2011 3:00 pm
tags: future internet mobile

Kudos to National Rail for finally putting out a mobile version of their site. This site is indispensable when planning train journeys on-the-go, as I often end up doing. The desktop version of the site did the job - albeit cumbersomely, with a combination of squinting and pinching the screen to zoom in and out - but the mobile version is a lot more smart-phone friendly.

The main point of this post, however, was to highlight the importance of the mobile web and how influential it is becoming in the way we design. It'd be wrong of me to talk at great lengths about this topic, as I'm really not much of a designer, but one of the main points I wanted to highlight is the simplicity and clarity that mobile design promotes.

Ever since I can remember, displays have been getting bigger and bigger, and resolutions have got larger and larger. Nowadays, it's not uncommon to have 27" or even 30" monitors sitting on your desk. This has prompted the birth of expansive multi-columned websites, filled with information, spreading both horizontally and vertically across the screen. Take a standard news site for example, a large portion of the page's vertical space is taken up with the logo, the navigation, adverts, promotions, etc., and it's standard to have a sidebar with sub navigations, more advertisements and other articles you might like. Then, lastly, a little way down the page, you've got the 500px column of text that is your main content, i.e. the bit you came to read.

But why has the idea of a website evolved to that? The Internet was born to enable us to share information more freely. But when we try and consume that information you can't do so without a number of other distractions forced in front of us before we even see a glimpse of the content we want.

Enter, "the mobile web" - a breath of fresh air to the way we consume information. With much tighter space limitations, designers are forced to remove any extraneous bits on the page and just serve the content. This is exactly the case with the recent National Rail site mobile site. The team have done their research, found out the main areas of consumption on their site, accessed from a mobile, and wrapped it up into a much nicer UI. No excessive scrolling and zooming and no waiting for unnecessary parts of the page to download.

Whilst the need for this brevity is much more for low-bandwidth, mobile use, a lesson can be learned when designing for desktop and other larger devices. The concept is simple, serve the user just what they want, and they'll be more likely to consume more, and more likely to come back again.