A couple of the workshops I attended today dealt with what has become a very hot topic of late: mobile site design for your library.
Should your library have one? Well, according to one speaker today, mobile devices will be the world's primary method for accessing the Internet in 2020. Unless you really believe that your local community is not going to ride that wave, the answer is yes, your library needs to start thinking about a mobile site. And studies have demonstrated that a successful user experience on your site is positively correlated with having a site that is designed specifically to be accessed on mobile devices. You need one.
What should be on your mobile site? Not everything that exists on your "normal" site. That's the short answer. As explained in one of the sessions, mobile sites shouldn't be designed for browsing; the reality of Internet browsing on mobile devices today doesn't support a lot of browsing. Thinking about your mobile site from a transactional standpoint makes sense. You users will want to find library hours, check their account, search for a book, get directions. Another study cited in one of today's sessions explained that 75% of users are willing to wait no more than 8 seconds for a page to load. 1 in 5 will wait 20 seconds. What does this say about what you have on your mobile site? It says include as few graphics as possible. Do everything you can to speed up the load time. And, for that matter, because the screens are so small, a bunch of text will look very dense; use brief sentences.
How do you design your mobile site? There are so many different platforms from which users are accessing the Internet on mobile devices that it's extremely difficult to design in such a way that your site will render the same on each device. This fact reinforces the need to stick with a simple design; the less complexity, the greater the likelihood of consistent rendering across platforms. But the diversity of platforms in use also suggests that you get feedback from your users when you're planning your design. Find out what they're using so you don't just focus on a design that works great on an iPhone but leaves 95% (or more) of your users dissatisfied with your shiny new mobile site.