5 Tips to improve Mobile UX

5tipsGetting the mobile user experience takes more than simply applying a responsive design – many other behavouiral factors need to be taken into account.

In his talk at Internet World, Lee Duddell shared five Mobile Optimisation Tips – drawing from our the Mobile Usability Report, client case studies and insights from the WhatUsersDo research platform.


TIP 1 Get Behind your Data

Using insight from usability tests (simply, real people thinking aloud as they use your site) can help you understand what your stats package is telling you. It provides the “Why” to explain the “How Many”.

In 2013 a major fashion retail brand approached WhatUsersDo with a problem. This is how I remember the call:

Client: “We have just replaced our one size fits all website with a responsive design.”

WhatUsersDo: “Great. How’s it going?”

Client: “Conversions are down – we’ve checked everything from site speed to changes in traffic profile, but don’t know why. Surely conversions should go up?”

To get behind their data we ran a mobile usability study – observing real users speaking aloud as they used the site using their smartphones. Within three videos (it doesn’t always happen that quickly, but it’s not uncommon) we had identified the “conversion killer”:

Users could not view garments close up, even when they pinched and zoomed

Given this was a fashion site it was critical to conversions (you need to see what you’re buying) and clearly demonstrates how observing users helped this brand understand their data. Watch the example below (from the Fat Face mobile site) that shows just how frustrating this can be.

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TIP 2 Make Search work harder

Search needs to work even hard for smartphone users because:

– they are less likely to scroll long lists and require better sorting and filtering than on desktop

– users enter more granular search terms on mobile devices

– they expect type ahead support.

In the video below you can see one user becoming frustrated on the Top Man site that he can’t sort by price.

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It’s prudent to spend some time looking at your search logs, by device, to determine the search terms people are using and check if the results are meaningful, given that users are unlikely to scroll beyond the first two or three.

TIP 3 Support device switching

switch_deviceGoogle Research has shown that 67% of users who start shopping on a smartphone have switched to their desktop to complete the purchase. Behind much of this behaviour is an aversion to entering payment details on a smartphone, though often it’s because users want to explore more sites from their desktop later.

Retailers are beginning to embrace this by allowing users to email themselves products, wishlists and their baskets from their phones to checkout later on their desktops.


TIP 4 Make menus make sense

Mobile websites are awash with iconography that makes sense to internal design teams, less so regular internet users. Our tip is simply to consider using words (see the screen shot below from Very) to describe menu items.



Very explain their menu items (like Department, Search, My Account and Basket) with iconography and words.

They understand (see Tip 3) the importance of Search so have made it prominent on their Home Page.

Smartphone users had positive First Impressions of the site, commenting that it looked “easy to use”.




TIP 5 Focus in on Add to Bag

Surprisingly nearly half of retailers in the Mobile Usability Report did not make adding to Bag (or Basket) easy. Interaction did not provide instant feedback and we observed lots of “fat fingering” at this crucial interaction point particularly where users needed to select a size and colour.

The video below, from ASOS, shows how annoying (or “fiddly” as this polite user puts it) this can be.

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Our tip is to focus you design team on the add to basket interaction by testing with real users on 3G connections on both your live site and during build.


Layering observational insight from UX Tests with real people provides the insight to understand where the mobile journey needs improving. As demonstrated by the clips in this article layering on a technical solution (in this case responsive design) does not provide the full answer. Understanding your users does.

To find out more

View Lee’s slides from his Internet World talk.

Download the Mobile Usability Report (jointly published with Practicology) covering 15 leading UK retailer sites.

Leave a comment below with a Top Tip for Mobile UX.

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