Tablets are computers, but they work a lot differently than the standard desktops and laptops everyone is used to. This means web designers need to build in accommodations for mobile users, whether this is a separate mobile website or an app. Take a look at these six ways that tablet computing influences web design and how you can plan for it.
Design with the Touchscreen Interface in Mind
One of the biggest considerations when designing websites for tablets is that there is no mouse and cursor. People use their fingers to click and interact with the mobile website. This means that the website design needs to have larger, clickable areas than a standard website because fingers are too big to work like a cursor. So, instead of using tons of in-text links and small navigation buttons, make them fingerprint size for ease of use. Clickable buttons and images are easy to use in web design and they are also aesthetically pleasing.
Of course, fingers play a bigger role on tablet websites than simply clicking links. There are several finger gestures that people have come to expect. For instance, swiping to scroll and pinching to zoom. You need to make sure you integrate these finger gestures into your mobile website to make the experience better and more intuitive for tablet users.
Keep the Design Simple
You also have to keep in mind the website resolution. You don’t want to use any images or design elements that will look weird when they are small. Additionally, you want to have a good resolution so users can zoom in on details without anything looking fuzzy. You can’t just shrink your regular website and call it good because it wouldn’t be readable or easy to use on a tablet. So, take the most important information and design elements from your regular website and rework them for your mobile website.
Remember to Design for Both Landscape and Portrait Orientation
Another thing to consider when designing mobile websites for tablet users is the orientation. Tablets can be held in either portrait or landscape, depending on the user’s preference. This means you need to have a website that can seamlessly change orientation without a problem. This is particularly important if you have fields for people to enter information because the pop-up screen takes more space in landscape than portrait orientation and users typically switch to accommodate this. If you don’t make sure your website looks good in both orientations, it might look distorted to certain users.
Optimize Screen Real Estate Since It Is Limited
One of the biggest obstacles web designers face when designing for tablets is the smaller screen size. Screen real estate was already limited on desktops and laptops, but it is even more of a problem on tablets. This means you should carefully consider the elements that you want to appear right when the website is opened on a tablet. For instance, stores should display business hours and locations while blogs should have an opt-in email subscribe form. The needs of every website are a little different.
There are also many other things to consider about tablet screen size and mobile website design. For instance, you need to find a good font size and balance it among the other elements in your design. People typically stick to a sans-serif font because they are the easiest to read, but you should experiment to find the best one for your mobile website that also matches your brand and intended message.
Utilize the GPS and Sensor Features on Tablets
Tablets come with a whole host of features that aren’t available on desktops and laptops, such as GPS capabilities and motion-detection. Good web designers incorporate these features into their mobile website. The GPS can be used to determine a user’s location, which can give them more targeted information. For example, a user that wants to find the closest chain restaurant can pull up the restaurant’s mobile website and automatically see the closest location based on their physical location. There are also lots of fun things web designers can do with the motion-detection software, such as interactive games.
Of course, every tablet and smartphone has different features, so you need to take this into consideration when designing your mobile website. A new Blackberry 10 phone on T-mobile has a GPS, motion detection, and more, but the screen size is smaller than most tablets. So, only design for the most common tablet and smartphone features.
Plan to Accommodate Different Tablet Platforms
Every tablet platform has its own app market with apps that only work on that device. However, mobile websites can be built to accommodate any platform because they are viewed through a web browser instead of an app. This doesn’t mean that your website will look the same on all devices, though. So, you should test your site out on as many devices as possible to make sure it works. Screen size is the biggest consideration when testing your mobile website because tablets all have different dimensions. Some have more of a square screen while some are longer and rectangular.
According to Gartner, there will be 665 million tablets in use by the end of 2016. So, web designers shouldn’t ignore the need for mobile websites that work well on tablets. Do you have any other advice for tablet website designers? What usability issues have you come across (either good/positive or bad/negative) on your tablet? Leave a comment below.