The Lite Mobile Site: Designing a User Experience for Slower Internet

Brandy Reed


Brandy Reed is a visual designer with the ICS User Experience (UX) team. Brandy is involved with many aspects of the visual design and UX process and works on a variety of projects focusing on designing for touchscreen interfaces.

By Brandy Reed | Tuesday, May 31, 2016

As time goes on, and mobile becomes more popular, we are seeing global growth in its use. Everywhere you look, likely you will see a mobile device in just about any setting. With the increase in mobile device popularity, comes higher expectations.  Users have grown to expect websites to be tailored to their needs. If a user is unable to access a website in this multi-faceted world of technology they will simply click away and find one that is more flexible to their needs. In the United States and more developed countries, when one is designing for the User Experience (UX) on any website, it is easy for the designer to dismiss any device that utilizes less than 3G networks (or sub-3G) and is often considered, “outside my demographic.”

Today, this attitude would be a mistake as the sheer volume of people operating within a sub-3G network is astonishing.  According to the Ericsson Mobility Report, the mobile web contains nearly sixty percent of its users operating on sub-3G networks, and in fact, it has been estimated  by the year 2020 ninety percent of people over the age of 6 worldwide will have mobile phones. This number is staggering and raises some issues in device usability. How do we as UX designers, tailor the web to accommodate for everyone, given the limitations of some connections.  

In order to make the mobile web sustainable for all users there needs to be a more simplified version of the content that can be easily processed by slower mobile web subscriptions. Websites like Facebook have come out with a stripped-down version of its site called Facebook Lite, which is illustrated in images 1-3 below, pulled from Google Play. This site can be accessed on phones that process at a slower rate. The average size of a webpage is often 1.5MB or more. But stripped down apps that cater to poor Internet connections allow for much smaller page sizes for users to get what they need faster. Facebook Lite boasts a page that is just 252 kilobytes in size. Though the look of the site seems dated and clunky, the user interface (UI) is just right for users with a slow Internet. It is tempting to design a website to be flashy and beautiful to attract people and often times that can work, but it also makes the page size larger and more inefficient for sub-3G users. If you are a small business owner targeting local users in an area with high-speed Internet then there is no need to strip your site down, but in a situation where a growing number of users need quick turnaround time on a site, a simpler approach must be attainable.

Images: Facebook Lite  

The web has grown so fast and with its increased popularity comes a call for change to meet the needs of all users, including emerging markets. The user experience design on a website needs to include a highly efficient, compressed version of itself, in order to provide usability options for all potential users worldwide. This type of design will deliver a better web experience for the end user, making them more likely to return to a specific site. After all, isn’t the goal of any site to obtain more returning users?

 

References:

Ericsson Mobility Report, Ericsson website, last accessed website, May 13, 2016, https://www.ericsson.com/res/docs/2015/ericsson-mobility-report-june-2015.pdf

Northwestern University Knight Lab website, last accessed, May 13, 2016, http://knightlab.northwestern.edu/2013/08/26/ethan-marcotte-on-web-design-accessibility-and-why-it-matters-to-journalists-digital-storytellers/

Facebook Lite, Google Play website, Last accessed May 17, 2016, ​https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.facebook.lite&hl=en

Facebook Lite Launches article, The Verge website, Last accessed May 13, 2016, http://www.theverge.com/2015/1/26/7906417/facebook-lite-launches-for-developing-countries


Tags:  UX Mobile

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