Arnie Kuenn, January 28, 2014
Mobile traffic has been growing steadily over the past five years, but increased more than 50 percent in the last 12 months. In fact, global tablet and smartphone traffic grew to 20 percent of all internet traffic in December 2013.
Considering this 1-in-5 milestone, you cannot afford to ignore mobile users in 2014. It is imperative that your content is not only readily available to mobile users, but is optimized for mobile consumption. Is your content mobile ready?
There are many steps you can take to ensure mobile visitors have a positive experience when browsing your content. Consider the following when assessing your 2014 mobile content strategy:
Mobile-Friendly Navigation & Design
If users cannot easily navigate your website on a mobile device, chances are they won’t stay. Because of this, having a mobile-friendly way of viewing your content is the first step in providing an exceptional mobile user experience. There are a few different ways you can deliver content to mobile visitors:
A mobile website is built specifically with mobile visitors in mind and is separate from the site designed for desktop users. Mobile websites are often a simpler version of a desktop site, built using basic colors, minimal content and effortless navigation. Most mobile websites use a different URL than the main desktop site, often the same domain with a mobile modifier, like “m.domain.com” or “domain.com/m.”
There are pros and cons to having a dedicated mobile site. Building a mobile site provides mobile visitors with only essential content. For example, someone visiting a restaurant website on a smartphone is probably not looking to peruse their blog, so a mobile site would showcase content like location, hours and menu. And with less content, page load time decreases, which can contribute to a lower bounce rate.
Nevertheless, mobile sites can often look disconnected from the desktop version of a site, as branding and other design elements need to be reeled in. And, if a reader does want to view content that’s not part of the main mobile site (like that restaurant blog), that content can be difficult for them to find or access. Additionally, a mobile site is separate from your main site, which means it needs to be managed and updated independently.
With responsive web design, you can affordably optimize your website for desktop and mobile traffic at the same time. Responsive web design is an approach where one design responds to different devices and displays content accordingly. Websites built using responsive design can detect a device’s resolution — whether it is a desktop, smartphone or a tablet — and adjust how content is presented to fit those dimensions. It allows visitors to experience the full functionality of a site no matter what device they are on, which can be a big asset given the ever-increasing variety of screen sizes and resolutions
However, while responsive design often delivers the most visually pleasing result for mobile visitors, it can increase mobile page load time. As page load time affects SEO and engagement, you must weigh the implications that responsive design can bring.
A mobile application is a wholly separate entity from a website, both desktop and/or mobile. Mobile apps provide a smooth user experience and can offer more complex components than a mobile or responsive site, but are also a much bigger commitment.
Mobile apps often require lots of time, money and other resources, as building and designing an app is an intricate process. This initial cost is compounded if the app is developed for multiple mobile platforms (iOS, Android, Windows Mobile), as well as ongoing costs to support and update the app. Fortunately, most businesses do not need to invest in building an app to effectively publish mobile content, especially if the main goal is providing a great mobile user experience without any extra frills.
Making sure your content is easily accessible by mobile users is the first step in getting your content mobile ready, and the best way to do so varies from business to business. Once you have determined the best way to display your mobile content, it’s time to consider specific content elements including text, images and video.
Easy To Read Text
When writing text content with mobile users in mind, try to keep it short and sweet. Depending on the smartphone or tablet, people will have varying screen sizes – some much bigger than others.
Those using a device with a smaller surface area may have a hard time scrolling through thousands of words, so it’s best to showcase text-based content that can be easily read from even the smallest of screens. Be sure to utilize bullets, numbered lists and bold headings to make it easier for visitors to scan text. This is a great way to organize written content in general, but especially when you expect it to be viewed on a mobile device where often less is more.
Additionally, think about how your text looks in terms of font style, size and spacing. The font style should be simple enough that it is clearly legible, as well as large enough for users to read without having to zoom in too much. Pinching and zooming can make content more difficult to read as it limits how much text is shown on the screen.
Also, be sure to consider line spacing. Too much line space makes content longer, which requires more scrolling. Not enough space between lines makes text challenging to read as words and sentences start to blend together. As much of web content is text-based, presenting it fittingly for mobile consumption is a crucial aspect of mobile content strategy.
Reduce Number & Size Of Images
Images often elicit more engagement than other forms of content; but on mobile devices, images can sometimes do more harm than good. Images (photos, infographics, graphs, charts, etc.) frequently complement textual content and can be very useful. Yet, as mobile devices have limited bandwidth, sometimes images are unable to load in a timely fashion, which results in users leaving the page.
Also, be sure to contemplate image sizing. On a desktop, the size of an image is something to take into account, but it matters much more on mobile.
Desktops and mobile devices have different resolutions, so a high-resolution image will be resized for mobile, which can impact the quality of the image. And, like long-form written content, large images can pose a scrolling problem. Sometimes images are too large to be viewed on mobile devices without scrolling, pinching or zooming, which makes for a less than stellar user experience.
Provide Mobile-Friendly Video
Video content is as popular as ever, especially on mobile. Online video accounts for 50 percent of all mobile traffic, making mobile video optimization extremely important.
As this number continues to rise, video content must be able to be viewed on all mobile devices without any restrictions. To be sure of this, eliminate any Flash, as it is not compatible with some mobile devices. Instead, use CSS and HTML 5 to provide quality video content without alienating any mobile visitors.
With more than 1.2 billion people accessing the web via mobile devices, having a mobile content strategy is no longer optional; it’s necessary. As you can see, there are many steps you can take to ensure your content is mobile ready, and now is the time to do so.
Start by deciding whether a mobile site, responsive design or an app is the best way to present your content, keeping the pros and cons of each in mind. Next, consider your text, image and video content from a mobile visitor’s perspective. Adjust your content as necessary following the best practices outlined above and you will be on your way to being a competitive player in the mobile market.