If you think about it, the best way to gauge the user-friendliness of a mobile website is to visit a couple of sites on your smartphone and take notes. Is the site highly readable within the four small walls of your phone? Are you torturing your fingers with too many clicks, pinches and taps to get to that important piece of information?

Design and navigation are the life blood of any mobile website -- optimizing them to the small screen can drastically improve usability. The five tips discussed here tell you how you can do exactly that.

1. Keep it Simple and Easily Readable

Simplicity and usability go hand in hand. Navigating your site shouldn't be like solving a jig-saw puzzle. This means no frames, tables and unnecessary formatting. Limit the padding too -- the loading time taken when users click the links on your mobile site can put them off (they are more patient with the loading time for normal computer-screen web pages).

Boil the design down to the most important categories that users are most likely to access, and arrange them in descending order of hierarchy. For instance, you would want to have a search box for "item" or "keyword" so users can directly get to what they want.

Under this, you can include a "store finder" where users can punch in a zip code to visit the particular online store. Further below, you can have a browsing section where the A-Z of product categories is given.

shutterstock_111390968.jpgTailoring your mobile website design for a large number of screen widths and resolutions does not make good business sense. For instance, many basic Blackberry phones have a resolution of 320 x 240 while the same can go up to 786 x 1024 for the iPad and 1280 x 800 for Samsung Galaxy Tab. What you can do is assess the display sizes and resolutions across different mobile devices to make a calculated call about your mobile layout.

A golden rule is to avoid a graphic-heavy design for the simple reason that it increases page loading time. See if you can add image icons (thumbnails should do) to facilitate easy interaction with your page and add a bit more sparkle to your mobile site’s overall appearance.

2. Reduce the Amount of Text Users Can Enter

Entering large amounts of text is a big pain even in the best mobile keyboards and keypads. Users are also more prone to making errors when typing on smaller mobile keyboards. You may want to brainstorm with your mobile web designer and content writer about the best approach to limited text entry.