Join Janine Warner for an in-depth discussion in this video Optimizing content for mobile devices, part of Creating an Effective Content Strategy for Your Website.
Designing for mobile is not just about creating websites that look good on small screens; it's about carefully stripping down a site to just the content that's most important to a mobile user. I designed the Wisdom Pet Site to respond to different screen sizes. I'll talk more about that in a moment. But like many things I've covered in this course, you don't have to be an expert in mobile design to be a great content strategist. You just need to know that mobile is increasingly important and that you should factor in content for mobile devices from the very beginning of your content strategy.
When it comes to content for mobile devices, don't overlook the obvious. If someone is searching for your website on a mobile phone, there is a pretty good chance they're looking for your phone number. That's part of why I like to include the phone number prominently throughout a site and make sure it's displayed at the bottom of every page. Simply making sure your phone number is easy to find and making sure it's formatted in text and HTML can dramatically improve the usability of your site on mobile devices.
Similarly, many people use mobile websites because they are lost. If you have a physical location, make sure you include your address, directions, and links to a map. When it comes to mobile design today, you should know that there are two distinct approaches. Most people are using either responsive design, which is what I use for the Wisdom Pet Site. Responsive design uses CSS media queries and it takes one HTML page and makes it respond to different screen sizes. That's why you saw the change in that design in real time when I changed the width of the browser.
But that means I only have one HTML page, so that one set of content has to work for all devices, and you need to be thinking about things like making the phone number prominent and the address prominent from the start. The second approach can be far more complicated. Adaptive design requires creating two or more distinct versions of your website, and then using an auto-detection script on the server to identify each device and deliver the best version to each visitor. That's the approach taken by companies like American Airlines, where you have to reach a broad audience with a highly interactive site.
If you're working for a company this big, as a content strategist your challenge will be making sure that the best, most relevant content is presented as concisely as possible in the limited space on a mobile screen. Another concept to be aware of when it comes to mobile web design is mobile first. The idea behind mobile first is that it's easier to design a simple mobile version of a site first and then add additional content as you create a desktop version of your site. You may not have this luxury if you're working on a site that already has a complicated desktop version.
But if you're creating a new site from scratch, definitely consider creating the mobile version and then adding on to create the desktop version. Here are a few other things to think about in mobile design. First of all--and maybe this is obvious-- but the screen size is really limited, and that means you generally have to limit your design to one column. So you're not going to be able to have sidebars and all of that secondary information you may be using on a desktop screen. Second, most cellphone users suffer from what we call fat-finger syndrome, which means you want to make your links really big and easy to click on, but it also means that the text that goes on those links may have to be even more concise.
Three, think visually. It works really well to use icons in place of text when you have very small space. And four, limit multimedia. Audio, video, and large images take up a lot of bandwidth, and that's problematic on mobile devices. You may need to cut out some of the things that you use on your main site or even provide a text-only version. If you do include multimedia on a mobile site, it's even more important to include short text descriptions first and give visitors the option of downloading that multimedia content only if they have the bandwidth to justify it and they're really interested.
In the last few years I've written entire books on mobile web design and I've watched the technology change dramatically, so I can't cover everything here, but I want to leave you with this: the hardest part of most good mobile web strategies is creating very concise content. When you're limited by such a tiny screen, you have to be ruthless about the words you use. If you've already mastered the process of prioritizing and writing as concisely as possible, you're well on your way to managing the content for a good mobile website.
- What is content strategy?
- Setting clear goals and managing expectations
- Creating a content inventory
- Identifying content needs with a gap analysis
- Managing development with a content matrix
- Creating a style guide and editorial calendar
- Developing wireframes and sitemaps
- Choosing the best medium for your message
- Testing and gathering feedback from users