Mobile Web Design for the Next Billion Users

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The Internet is accessible to about 40 percent of the population, and many new users access the web using only a mobile device, particularly in places like Nigeria and India. This means that all apps and web design should be compatible with a mobile device. In addition, careful thought must also be given to older phone models and slower Internet that is not as trustworthy.

The importance of targeting new markets

The online market continues to be a huge market with a growth rate of nine percent annually. The growth rates in emerging markets are even more massive. Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends Report has revealed that India has in fact become the second biggest market across the globe (a position that was previously held by the United States). In other words, there are more people in India who are online than in the United States!

According to Rachel Simpson, a senior designer on Google’s Chrome user experience team, there is substantial business opportunity in emerging markets, and that this is an area where a web design specialist can have a real impact. As for the best way to target this market, she claims that the solutions they need are for mobile devices and not desktop devices. Though, there are three barriers that web designers will have to take into consideration namely cost, complexity and connectivity.


Emerging markets often use low-spec gadgets that do not have as much built-in storage. On top of that, people can only afford a few megabytes of data. To help with this problem, the web designer needs to work with an engineer to create a lightweight website that is sensitive towards the sizes of the images used.


Connection errors are common in emerging markets. For example, about 66% of Nigerian users and about 50% of Indian users are on a 2G connection, not even to mention an unreliable power supply. In these countries it can be a mission just to find a power source where you can recharge your mobile device!


Mobile users come with different expectations than desktop users. Typing on a mobile device is hard and using a different language can make the keyboard even more complex than what it already is. Web designers will have to remember that often users from emerging markets are browsing the Internet in their second or even third language. Therefore, Rachel Simpson recommends using culturally relevant iconography and avoiding large chunks of text to improve comprehension.

Adding empathy to the mix

Whenever you are designing a website, you need to remember that there is no “standard” user. So, make sure that your web design does not exclude users from these emerging countries. Magicdust recommends that you follow a three-step process to improve your web design that involve measuring, tweaking and repeating. Always ask yourself if the website is in fact working for you (and other users) and which areas could be improved to boost its performance.

Related Article: “3 Lessons Learned Launching My Startup in a Developing Nation

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Melissa Thompson

Melissa is a mother of 2, lives in Utah, and writes for a multitude of sites. She is currently the EIC of and writes about health, wellness, and business topics.