Mobile Driving Webpages

If you haven’t looked at USA Today’s website in the past couple weeks, you’re in for a surprising experience when you call up the page on your laptop—you’ll think you’re on your mobile device, not your laptop. As recently reviewed by Julie Moos at the Poynter Institute, the website brings the layout and navigation of the iPad to your laptop experience. Moos’ impression was favorable, for reasons ranging from the ease of navigation a horizontal navigation experience gives the user to how the “design avoids containerizing content,” thus making it easier for the user to absorb. There’s much to admire here from a design perspective. But there is also a key point to be made from a usability perspective. Mobile technology has not simply created new and easier ways for people to connect to their favorite information sites, but as the popularity of mobile grows, so, too, is the popularity of mobile’s approach to navigation. Before delving deeper into this, consider how rapidly mobile’s influence is growing. StatCounter reports that two years ago, just 3.81 percent of people accessed the web via a mobile device. Currently, that number has climbed to 12.03 percent. Other groups give higher numbers. A recent Pew study shows that we’re just beginning to feel the impact. Half of US adults own either a tablet or Smartphone, and 66 percent look to the devices to consume their news. Nonprofits and associations may choose not wish to embrace a mobile app, but they certainly need to be prepared to configure their website so that people consuming information on mobile can access it. The simplest solution is to design your page using responsive web design, a term coined in 2010 to describe setting up the page so that it automatically adjusts to a wide range of screens and sizes. One example follows, more can be found at TripWire. The more daring solution is to abandon traditional navigation for websites and adopt a mobile-inspired horizontal approach, as USA Today has done. Though on the cutting edge, in a world where more and more people are comfortable navigating on mobile devices, USA Today may well represent the next generation of web design. One in which we don’t simply think in terms of mobile solutions for our websites, but bring the innovations of mobile to our websites.