Mobile Tester: Usability Short Reads: Learning from others’ mistakes

Over the last 18 months, the intrepid Mobile Gov team has worked with you to prioritize a set of guidelines and recommendations for good mobile user experience; categories are ranked by priority and tagged by user experience concepts such as information architecture, content, functionality, design, trustworthiness, and user context.

The primary purpose of this set is to put the user’s main task up front. Thus, while you’re testing your mobile site’s individual functionalities, don’t forget to make sure that your users can reasonably complete their tasks. What should you be looking out for? What is mobile usability? The featured resources below provide tips, warnings, and meaning.

Usability tips: similar themes emerge

7 usability guidelines offers up tidbits for consideration, such as deciding whether you need to develop more than one mobile site and taking advantage of the functionality of the mobile device(s) you’re designing for.

Use the device’s map and GPS applications, for example, that wouldn’t be available on a PC. The rationale to develop multiple mobile sites would depend on your audience, but you may find you need an even more stripped down version if your target audience has extremely slow download speeds. Want to learn more about your target audience? Check out this personas guide from

A similar article offering 10 tips to better usability provides a handy chart on screen sizes, although you’ll want to research your own site’s analytics to determine which resolutions you should aim for. Want to learn more about different device screens? Check out Wikipedia’s exhaustive list of displays.

The 10 tips author reminds us to get to the meat of a site by removing the unnecessary, make it easy to enter information (provide options where feasible), and be considerate of download time and resources.

12 usability flaws also calls to mind slow downloads, the fat finger problem — when clickable areas are too small — and reduce keystrokes and errors by providing data options where possible. More flaws brought forward include videos that don’t play on the mobile site and “responsive” mobile sites that aren’t.

The old made new again

While dated by both time and changes in OS look and feel, Jakob Nielsen’s May 2010 article on iPad usability does help to remind us about fat fingers and that a tablet looks and acts more like a desktop than it does a cell phone. Do you remember the first time you used a touch screen? Was the swipe intuitive? The article is still worth a read to remind us what non-expert users experience, even though we’ve made affordances for the now-familiar interaction.

Steve Krug, a web usability author, has published his updated Don’t Make Me Think book with more information, including a chapter on mobile and app usability. It’s worth a read to get the whole usability picture in plain language.

Fun Fact

65% of all email gets opened first on a mobile device — and that’s great news for marketersThe Mobile Tester Newsletter is sent bi-monthly to the volunteer testers in our Federal Crowdsource Mobile Testing Program. Each newsletter contains a feature article, and interesting trends and statistics from the world of mobile testing. To receive our next edition, sign up to become a tester.

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