Digestible content for a mobile appetite

mobile_dinnerAs web users, we quickly and mercilessly chew up and spit out sites until we find the information we need. As content creators, we often forget our own usability habits, getting lost in our day-to-day business priorities.

Though we’re constantly reminded of mobile’s ever-increasing importance, status quo internal business practices can allow us to sail by with the bare-minimum “mobile-friendly” requirements. If your view of the changing digital landscape hasn’t yet created a sense of fear urgency in your need to adapt, then I’m here to tell you that the time is now. And luckily, there is still hope (and time) to shake things up and still leave your users happy and satisfied.

‘Mobilegeddon’ is now

By now, you’ve likely heard about Google’s new mobile-friendly ranking algorithm that began rolling out April 21. The new search rankings are causing a panic (“Mobilegeddon”) for many site owners, as pages with previously top search results may well be bumped to second tier if found lacking basic mobile experience criteria. USA Today estimates that as many as 40% of top websites today are not currently mobile friendly.

Google’s main objective with this shift is to improve the mobile experience for users. In its guidelines about mobile site requirements, Google mentions that a mobile-friendly site has the following: doesn’t use software incompatible with mobile (such as Flash), uses text that doesn’t require resizing, has responsive design (images and formats fit to the screen), and links are easy to tap (or not tap). I’m sure there are more on this list, but those are the basics.

To Google’s credit, they’ve sent out notifications about this in advance, have set up a mobile-friendly test page, and have created a mobile developer’s guide for all those looking for direction. Of course, there are legions of other resources online for how to create or improve a mobile site. But regardless of how your site stacks up, your mobile content strategy can almost certainly benefit from some TLC. With mobile optimization on everyone’s minds, now’s the perfect time to prepare for a very mobile future.

Changing user habits, content habits

Google’s timing is both self-interested (their annual mobile advertising revenue has tripled since 2012) and a sign of the times. A global survey recently showed that 80% of Internet users own a smartphone, and a recent Nielsen survey reveals that the average daily consumer time spent on a smartphone has now surpassed time using the Internet on a computer.

Though you might be in a position to hire a developer or fix-it service to “give you a mobile site” most content professionals are working on large, complex sites with their own development teams and processes. And likely, you already have some sort of mobile solution in place. For most of us, sadly, mobile is hardly been a key piece of the content development and management process puzzle—more of an afterthought when hurrying through the final stages of publishing or development.

As users are expecting more from their phones, they expect more from their mobile experience. Let’s break these bad habits of mobile apathy and dive into the day-to-day mobile work necessary for today’s content managers, creators, strategists, and editors.

Recipe for a mobile feast

Creating a successful mobile content strategy is obviously much more than shortening your sentences and paragraphs. While there are thousands of resources for how to get it right and do it better, what we’re concerned with here and now is building the elements of good mobile design into the framework of your content management. If you’re not supported (and supporting others) in an environment that truly allows for this, your hopes and dreams for shiny, exceptional mobile content will fall flat.

Education

One of the biggest problems is content creators’ lack of dedicated time to learn best practices. If you could be providing these resources to your team and you’re not, take advantage of the sea change to allocate some resources. If you can’t take advantage of company-sponsored webinars or resources on mobile content, then take the initiative and start honing your skills.

Scheduling

Creating mobile content takes time. At one time or another, we’ve all hoped that someone might force us to add mobile considerations to our routines, but if it hasn’t happened yet, then it’s time to have those conversations about deliverables and timelines when the additional work of honing content for mobile is involved.

Planning

To make mobile integration old hat, the use of templates or even visual examples can be extremely helpful. When learning a new skill, visualization is often key. Make it easy for others (or yourself!) to convert your content into a mobile-friendly format with checklists and templates that ensure you’re not reinventing the mobile wheel.

Testing

Do you really always test the mobile version of your page? Do you ever actually look at it and use it on a mobile device? None of your peers or superiors may view your content on mobile before it goes to production (or ever), but your users do and will. Start getting in the habit now and allow time for changes you’ll inevitably want to make once you see it on the small screen.

Innovating

Before you think you’ve conquered your mobile content, have you considered if there might be opportunities to engage users in the mobile space in ways that you haven’t considered? You may have a unique opportunity to guide the user into a pleasant and surprisingly satisfying experience—don’t leave them hungry for the site they never saw.