If you’ve ever signed up for or ordered anything on your mobile device, then invariably you’ve experience the unmitigated frustration of that activity.
Sure, mobile devices are great and put the utility of instant communication, Internet access, e-commerce, gaming, etc. all at your fingertips.
And yes, the convenience vastly outweighs any pain points you may experience using your mobile phone.
But that doesn’t negate the pain points.
And while we may suffer for the privilege of owning one of these remarkable devices, we don’t have to do so silently.
If we don’t raise our voices in protest, the minor inconveniences we suffer may well go unaddressed.
And I’m not having that!
So on to vociferous complaining I go.
One thing I absolutely hate, hate, hate, hate, hate is when I’m filling out a form on my device and tab to a field that’s asking for a number, say my zip code, and the alpha keyboard pops up.
Or if I’ve just used my numeric keyboard, tab down to a field requiring a alphabetic response and I’m presented with the numeric keyboard again.
As someone who develops mobile websites, mobile and tablet applications for a living, I know that this behavior is not best practice.
Best practices recommend that you offer users the appropriate keyboard for the appropriate field.
I could go on about other things that get my goat, but I’ll refrain.
Instead, here are my top five tips for making your site (or mobile app) more user friendly.
1. Tab. Tab. Tab.
When you’re filling out a form on your mobile device, it really helps if the process of going from one field to the next is automated. For example, if you’ve got to input a phone number that’s separated into distinct fields for the area code, central office number and station number, it would be awesome if it automatically tabbed to the next field. Similarly, if you’ve entered your first name, the cursor should automatically tab to the last name, email or whatever field comes next without you have to do it manually.
2. Up keyboard. Down keyboard. No. Keyboard.
Being unable to call or dismiss a keyboard on demand is a pet peeve of mine. If I hit a page that requires data input, having the keyboard automatically dialed up and the cursor in the first field that requires data input is uber helpful. If I’ve got a keyboard and want to get rid of it, doing so shouldn’t be as complex as solving a Rubik’s Cube. If there’s a field that can be filled without inputing data from a keyboard, by all means make it available to the user. If I can select a date rather than inputing it, give me that option. If I can select a city (once I’ve given you my zip code), give me that option. And for the love of God, if a field can be completed without requiring a keyboard, make it so!
3. Inline errors? Anchor down!
Invariably, we all suffer from fat-finger syndrome every once in a while. We think we’ve typed “.com” and actually typed “.con” and we don’t realize it until after we’ve completely filled out the form and hit submit. But wait! We still don’t know what’s wrong because the error message is at the top of the screen. So we’ve got to scroll up to see what’s wrong, and then scroll down to the respective part of the page to correct it. Argh! What should occur is a user should be alerted at the moment the error is made, and that message should be next to (or in close proximity) to where the data was entered. In the alternative, if an error is made, it should be anchored – meaning the user should be driven directly to the field to correct (as opposed to having to look for it).
4. Single Sign-on. Social login.
In my opinion, being able to sign up or sign in to anything using an existing social media account is the best thing since sliced bread. I don’t know why more brands don’t take advantage of the ease of use afforded by integrating with these ubiquitous APIs. Single sign-on allows users to log into a system once and have access to multiple systems without having to log in again. Similarly, social media login gives you the ease of signing up or into a third party application without having to create a new login. Folks don’t want to have to create new logins every time they use a new service, so SSO and social logins eliminate that requirement.
5. Big buttons. Big fonts.
While mobile devices and tablets are getting bigger, real estate they have to work with is still substantially smaller than desktop PCs and laptops. More importantly, accessing content on desktops are typically performed with a mouse, as opposed to one’s finger. For that reason, it’s important to make content large enough to be visible and accessible on a small screen. The scarcity of space on mobile devices means that you’ve got to be spare about what you have on screen, and in many instances, less is more. But when it comes to buttons and fonts, bigger is better.
Ultimately, what would make everyone’s lives infinitely easier is an application that allows you to complete all forms with a single click. Chrome, Firefox and Safari all have autofill extensions, which allow you to auto-populate web forms, and LastPass and 1Password offer mobile autofill options as well.
But there’s no solution that works equally well on mobile, desktop and the cloud. Or is there?
I’ve just been made privy to an exciting new application being released early next year that may do just that.