At the beginning of next month Google will update its mobile-friendly algorithm, which will result in sites that aren’t compatible with mobile losing favour in organic search rankings. Sites that have already received warnings from the tech giant, will either have to make their sites more responsive or suffer the fate of poor rankings. That said, The Content Council contacted mobile experts from around the globe to share their insights on how to create mobile friendly sites.
DIGITAL EDITOR, GLOBE NATIVE, CANADA
The rule of thumb for mobile is, less is more. Not only are you working with a smaller screen, but shorter attention spans. If a story can be told with an image, use an image. Design-wise, too many elements on a screen can look chaotic. Fancy bells and whistles burden load times and guarantee that a reader will leave before consuming your content.
Mini Case Study:
We took a mobile-first approach in our collaboration with Audi Canada to live stream the 2016 Canadian International Auto Show. Anticipating that a huge part of our traffic would come from smartphones and tablets, we made sure our landing page was clean and the stream was easy to find. We opted to publish our content on YouTube to make it easily shareable on social media, especially if watchers weren’t coming directly to our landing page. Any additional branded videos and assets we included were deliberately short, snappy and digestible.
SENIOR CONTENT STRATEGIST, ORM LONDON, UK
How you approach mobile content depends on your users—you need to design around customer’s behavior on the device, not for the device itself.
It’s easy to assume that mobile users are ‘on the go’ and want a streamlined experience, compared to desktop users. This is the case for many businesses, but not all. Captive time on trains or planes, waiting to meet a friend, lying on the couch watching TV and idly browsing your phone—are all situations where users are not in a hurry, but just happen to be using mobile or tablet devices.
To decide the approach your organization should take to mobile—whether to use responsive or adaptive design, or whether to create an app—you must take the time at the start of any project to truly understand mobile behavior and user intent of your specific customer base. Research and testing is the only way to get a grip on how the needs and priorities of your mobile users differ to those of your desktop users. This is the only way you can make informed decisions on the platform you need, and whether you need mobile-specific content within that platform or not.
Mini Case Study:
Great Western Railway is a major UK train operator with over 35% of users coming to the site from mobile. We took a genuinely mobile-first approach to the creation of GWR.com, planning everything from navigational structure, interaction, design, and copy for the smaller screen first, before scaling up for bigger screens. Mobile users can book tickets and get travel information very quickly, but are also able to browse destination inspirations on their phones or tablets too. The experience is customized for them, but that doesn’t mean they’re given ‘less’ than desktop users.
DIGITAL DIRECTOR, MEDIUM RARE CONTENT, AUSTRALIA
For a mobile content strategy to be successful, brands must consider what formats and types will be the most helpful to people when they are casually browsing, researching, about to purchase or wanting to share their experiences.
Mini Case Study:
By way of an example, we relaunched the Qantas Magazine app last year based on passenger needs. The app was previously in a flip-book magazine format, which was not mobile optimized and didn't take into account how people actually use travel content to help plan their trips. We changed the app to a responsive format which, as well as hosting magazine editions, allowed us to group content into city guides that users can download and have on their devices for offline access while they are travelling too.
Mini Case Study: In terms of really thinking outside the box, Quartz's new messaging-style news app is a very compelling way to share information, i.e., it makes the news feel more personal. Sending snippets of top news stories in the form of text messages and sharing only select sections of articles, optimizes the user’s need (FOMO) for staying current.
FREELANCE WEB DESIGNER & CONTENT CREATOR, MASSACHUSETTS, U.S.
The mobile web is constantly changing, and it's up to content creators to change with it. The most prominent tips I have is to improve the experience on all levels of accessibility (font size, contrast) and page speed.
The open source AMP Project is another huge leap forward in mobile publishing. It's basically a framework for building lightning-fast experiences to provide mobile visitors with content as quickly as possible. Major sites like The Washington Post have already adopted AMP and it has a fast-growing dev community.
Mobile visitors are very much destination oriented, wanting to consume content as readily and effectively as possible. Although technologies may change that provide those solutions the goal of delivering the right information at the right time in the best possible user experience remains constant.