Content strategy for mobile

A quick survey of Florida Keys websites suggests that most business owners still think having a site that’s easy to use on mobile devices (phones, tablets) is an option, not a necessity. Here are some statistics that might get them to think again*:

  • 56% of Americans own smartphones (Pew Internet – September 2013)
  • 86% of Americans have used their smartphone to decide whether to visit a business in the last 30 days (Pew Internet – September, 2013)
  • 1/3 of ALL searches are local (Google)
  • 40% of smartphone users search locally every day (Google – 2013)
  • 79% of smartphone shoppers user their phone to help with shopping (Google – February 11)
  • 71% of smartphone users who see an ad (print, TV, online) do a mobile search for more information (Google – February, 2013)
  • “By 2015, more Americans will access the internet through mobile devices than through desktop computers.” (International Data Corporation, via K. McGrane. “Content Strategy for Mobile.” New York: A Book Apart, 2012, p. 22)

And this from a Google report (2012): “This study found that 96% of consumers have encountered sites that weren’t designed with mobile in mind. It also found that when it happens, it can be bad for business—48% reported feeling frustrated and annoyed.” (Google study – September, 2012)

*It’s safe to assume that 2011 and 2012 statistics have all since trended upward.

And this more recent (11/7/13) report from Marketing Land – “Mobile Trends By The Numbers, Just In Time For The Holidays


Responsive web design or separate mobile site?

So really your first challenge isn’t whether to develop a mobile site, but how to build one–use “responsive design” techniques to make your current “desktop” site a better experience for your mobile users, or build a separate mobile site, with its own domain?  (Developing a mobile app is another option, but usually beyond the budgets of most small to medium businesses). There are pros and cons to both options that I won’t belabor in this post since I’m not a Web developer and want to focus this post on content strategy for mobile (for an interesting discussion of  the “responsive web design” vs. “separate mobile site” debate, check out this Hubspot post–with some useful comments!).

Content strategy for mobile

Mobile text is significantly harder to read, even when optimized to a larger font size for mobile. And images displayed on mobile devices are harder to understand even after they’ve been cropped and zoomed. That’s mainly, obviously, because of mobile’s smaller screen sizes – NOT necessarily because of the distracting, on-the-run “mobile context” we’ve heard so much about. Usability guru Jacob Nielsen gives a nifty, research-based explanation of all that here and in “Mobile Usability,” his new book with Nielsen/Norman colleague Raluca Budio.  Their basic recommendation is to do everything possible to focus mobile users’ attention on essential content, which means (1) cut the fluff, especially page intro copy, unless it’s absolutely necessary to explain what’s on the page and why the following content is important; (2) relegate less important content to secondary (lower level) pages; and (3) try hard–even harder than when developing content for desktop users–to format  text in bullet lists, bolded fonts, etc. so it will be easier to scan and understand on mobile screens.

And I heartily agree with Karen McGrane’s admonition in “Content Strategy for Mobile” (A Book Apart, 2012) that if you decide to go with a separate mobile site, it should have all the same content as your desktop site. Mobile users get frustrated when they have to jump over to your desktop site to find what they need–especially if they’re bounced to a homepage and have to keep looking from there. And even more especially if there’s a link to “Full website” or “Desktop site” on your mobile site and they click it and then waste time discovering that your “Full website” actually has all the same content.