Designing for Your User’s Device (Or, What Do Your Users Want to Do?)

You know the stats by now — everyone is mobile.

Your users may not being sitting behind a desk when visiting your website; they could be in the car, in line at the supermarket, or in the bathroom (be honest – lots of surfing goes on there).

That’s why we have responsive design, which ensures that your website looks good on every device — desktop, laptop, tablet or phone. Every site we design and develop is responsive, which not only makes it more user-friendly, but helps in search engine rankings and can improve page speed.

Using the combination of the Bootstrap framework and WordPress enables responsive design out-of-the-box, but that doesn’t mean that the site is automatically optimized for what you users want to do.

What Do Your Users Want to Do?

For years, I’ve been telling our partners and clients to think like your users.

It’s incredibly easy to think like a publisher when you’re building your site, trying to create a structure you think best displays what you have to offer and working to teach your users about it.

Unfortunately, that approach rarely works.

Obviously, every site has different goals — you know your site’s goal, right? When you know your goal, that’s what you work towards.

If you’ve communicated effectively, your goal is what your users come to you for. If you have an e-commerce site, your goal is to sell product. Your users’ goal is to buy things from you. It’s a perfect match.

Developing Use Cases

In software and website development, it’s a best practice to develop use cases — theoretical users of your site, what their goals are, and how they will achieve them.

Writing a user case isn’t that difficult, but Usability.gov outlines its 7 steps to create one.

  1. Identify who is going to be using the website.
  2. Pick one of those users.
  3. Define what that user wants to do on the site. Each thing the use does on the site becomes a use case.
  4. For each use case, decide on the normal course of events when that user is using the site.
  5. Describe the basic course in the description for the use case. Describe it in terms of what the user does and what the system does in response that the user should be aware of.
  6. When the basic course is described, consider alternate courses of events and add those to “extend” the use case.
  7. Look for commonalities among the use cases. Extract these and note them as common course use cases.

Creating use cases really helps you to understand your users. Now look — you may not get everything right the first time, but by having an idea of who your users are and what they want to do helps you to develop easier paths for them to succeed.

Designing for Your User’s Device

With so many users visiting your website via tablets and smartphones, it’s crucial to ensure that your use cases take into account the device your user has.

When devices change, layouts change. Goals may even change.

For example, if you own a restaurant, your “desktop” site may heavily promote menus, photos, reviews and making reservations. It makes a ton of sense — potential customers likely want to know what you serve, what it looks like, and have a mechanism to make a reservation.

But on your mobile site, you likely want to promote different things. Is a full-width photo gallery important on a mobile site? How about reviews? Possibly, but I’d argue that customers visiting your site on their smartphone are more likely to be on the road and would want quick access to your phone number, address or other means of contact.

That’s what should be promoted.

Here’s another example.

If your site focuses on publishing content, your tablet view is crucial. Where your desktop layout likely includes sidebar ads, related content or sharing links, your tablet layout needs to be focused on readable content. Picture your reader, sitting on their sofa with their iPad in hand; they want to read. They’re not as focused on taking action; they’re having a lean back experience.

When You’re Building Your Site, Consider How It’s Being Used

It’s no longer enough to build your site and make it mobile-friendly; you need to ensure that each layout is designed for how your user will use it.

Design for the devices your users have, and ensure their goals are easily achieved. Their goals may be different depending on the device they’re using, so map out the possibilities, develop use cases and work to make it easy for them — and you — to succeed.

Jason Unger
About Jason Unger
Jason Unger is the Founder of Digital Ink, the creative and digital team that builds brands and helps companies grow. Based outside of Washington, D.C., Jason has done it all, from website strategy, design, development, troubleshooting, maintenance, content and marketing.