Designing Websites for Tablets – The Mobile Design Challenge

Up until recently, mobile website designers just had to worry about what their applications would look like on small-screened phones and other mobile devices. But with more and more types and sizes of tablets entering the market, mobile designers are finding themselves at a loss.

What happens when a traditional phone application gets displayed on a large screen tablet? The viewer sees lots of empty space and sparse content. And likely won’t remain on the site for very long.

To fix that and keep visual interest in the application, Mobile Tuts+ recommended having a ListView on the left side of the screen and a details view on the right side. Use WebView to update the content.

Size and resolution also factors in to design for tablets. The Android operating system can dynamically load resources based on lists of device criteria. Have layouts available for small, medium and large screens.

There are four basic screen according to Android Developers:

• Xlarge screens at least 960dp x 720dp
• Large screens at least 640dp x 480dp
• Normal screens at least 470dp x 320dp
• Small screens at least 426dp x 320dp

Android Developers recommended providing alternative layouts for the different sizes, although the operating system will resize a layout too, so there’s no need to design different layouts for each screen size.

When it comes to designing mobile sites that will look good regardless of what type of mobile device a viewer sees it on, keep it simple is the mantra of
Keep screens streamlined and free from clutter to make sure buttons and other touch controls are an adequate size. The site also recommends using flexible layout controls that adjust to screen size, including RelativeLayout and LinearLayout.

Try to keep in mind the people who will be viewing the mobile content. Even the best thought-out mobile plans can go awry and cause users to drift away from the site.
Mobile devices aren’t just another ways to reach customers, but are a way to engage them, said Tom Wentworth of Mashable. The gadgets are the most important innovation since the introduction of the computer mouse.

A smartphone user is transaction-oriented and will expect a more no-frills interface — so stay away from using a lot of Flash and complex sites. Tablet users are looking for more of an experience that could include video, images and other content, but keep the tablet websites easy to navigate.

Betsy Fuksman