A mobile website is no good if it’s not usable. Mobile users are on the move, and they want to find what they’re looking for quickly. Whether it’s the address of a well-known restaurant or important information to respond to a work-related email, websites must be functional, easy-to-read and flexible enough to render correctly on a wide array of browser types and sizes. Naturally, this is easier said than done.

There’s just no way to get around optimizing for mobile. Unless, of course, you want to alienate a major portion of your audience. Whether you create a full mobile version of your site or simply ensure that your existing site renders correctly and is usable on most mobile devices, the following are important factors for creating a user-friendly, mobile-optimized site.

Home Page Design

Your home page is often (but not always) the first place visitors land. What will they see when they reach your site? A user-friendly home page is critical for keeping those visitors around. If your home page looks cluttered, has tiny, unreadable text and images that won’t load properly, those visitors are bouncing faster than you can say “usability.”

Your home page should be clean, uncluttered and simple with clear navigation and easy-to-read text. Include the most important information at the top and eliminate unnecessary, extraneous information that serves little purpose other than cluttering up the screen. Mobile users are looking for information quickly—most aren’t interested in reading a novel just to find out where your business is located.

Put yourself in the mind of your user. When they hit your site from a mobile device, what information is the most essential? What are they most likely trying to find? Make this information primary and prominent, and put less essential information on secondary pages.

Site Navigation

One of the most important aspects of mobile usability is your site’s navigation. How many times have you accessed a website via your mobile device only to end up incredibly frustrated because you can’t get where you want to go? Buttons that function just fine on a larger screen can end up being tiny on a mobile screen—making it virtually impossible to hit the correct button with a finger.

You may need to create an entirely different navigation menu for mobile. Keep it simple, easy to read and easy to follow. Clickable areas and buttons should be fingertip-sized so users can accurately click the right areas of the screen.

Broken Images and Incompatible Plugins

Mobile browsers have come a long way, but there are still plugins that just won’t work on a mobile device. If you’re using these plugins—even something as common as Java—on your primary website, you need to create an alternative, mobile-optimized version that’s more user-friendly to the ever-increasing number of visitors accessing your site from a mobile device.

Simple Forms

Have you ever tried to fill out a complicated web form from your smartphone? Yeah, fun times. Is that the experience you want to leave your visitors with? We didn’t think so.

Simplify those forms for mobile. The fact is that users don’t even like filling out complicated web forms on their desktops and laptops—so they’re certainly not going to spend 45 minutes trying to get their cursor into the proper field while they’re sitting on the train on the way to work. Keep it simple.

Mobile-Optimized Conversions

You know those tried and tested, painstakingly designed calls-to-action and CTA buttons you poured your blood, sweat and tears into turning into a conversion masterpiece? Sorry to break the news…but when it comes to mobile, you might have to start from scratch with conversion rate optimization. That’s because those beautiful, spanning buttons and CTAs might not render appropriately on a mobile browser. Even if they do, they might cause the user to have to scroll to see it. That’s no better than a CTA that lives below the fold.

So head back to the drawing board for mobile CRO. You can use the same concepts, same color contrast, even the same button design, but you must format it in such a way that it’s visually appealing and easy-to-use on mobile browsers.

Load Times

Too many large images can cause your site to take forever to load on a mobile device. Minimize the size of your images on your mobile site to avoid never-ending waiting times that will cause your users to bounce.

Ample Font Size

Font size is one of the trickiest aspects of mobile usability. If you make the font too big, it won’t fit on the page. But if you make it too small, users can’t read it. This is another aspect that you’ll have to test and test again. Building in features, such as the ability to increase or decrease font size without breaking the page design and other usability aspects, is a good idea to appeal to individual user preferences.

So there you have it. While there are dozens of complicated aspects of properly optimizing for mobile, these are the most important usability aspects you need to emphasize to create a user-friendly mobile site. What’s your biggest challenge when optimizing for mobile, and how do you work around it? Share with us in the comments below!