Ten years ago, the iPhone was nonexistent, text messages cost 15 cents apiece, and mobile Internet made 14.4 Kbps dial-up feel like lightning. Today, a majority of Americans rely on their smartphones to share photos, maintain constant conversations with friends and family, and stay informed through multi-gigabyte data plans. The now six-year-old app economy has exploded into an industry worth $25 billion.
But brand marketers, are still largely producing content for audiences glued to their computer screens, when in reality, those audiences are just as (if not more) likely to be reading and viewing content on train commutes to work, during work-outs at the gym, and as a brain-break during boring meetings. From a user engagement standpoint, chunks of text just don’t cut it.
“Mobile experiences are often a series of micro interactions – quick tasks that the user performs, often in a highly distracting, public environment using a very small screen,” explains Laura Klein, a UX design and research expert who specializes in helping lean startups build customer-friendly products.
From a functional standpoint, Klein explains, mobile-optimized content needs to be instantly attention-grabbing, clean, focused, and free from distractions. That means incorporating meaningful headings and sub-headings while keeping messaging short and to the point.
“A good mobile experience keeps important tasks quick, obvious, interruptible, and performable with a limited about of input,” emphasizes Klein.
Commenting and social media are invaluable for brand-to-consumer relationships, but marketers shouldn’t expect mobile users to engage in long, complicated conversations.
“Think about the difference between having a keyboard and mouse and the time to carefully craft a response to an email,” says Klein. “Now think about responding to a text on your way from one meeting to another.”
As Klein points out, mobile communication should be held to a different standard. It’s about communicating as much information — but not too much — as quickly as possible.
“Mobile communication is generally a series of short, asynchronous messages,” she says.
It’s pioneering new terrain in human-to-human relationships.
“Front-facing cameras, easy photos sharing, and group messaging apps are creating opportunities for all sorts of new types of communication that can actually be easier and richer than on computers,” explains Klein.
Mobile users are all unique in their needs, values, and intents. Apps and mobile-optimized sites are not necessarily one-size-fits-all solutions for your audience’s content needs. Marketers need to dig deep into understanding their audience to best articulate their content-to-market fit.
“The best thing you can do is learn why your users are mobile,” recommends Klein. “Do they not have computers? Is their job on the road? Are they in meetings or classes? What sort of mobile devices are they using? Tablet usage can be much closer to laptop than it is to phone, for example.”
Content marketers need to make user research a priority so that they can produce the most valuable content possiblelooking beyond the device to focus on the needs of the person behind the screen.
“By learning some basic user research techniques, you can increase your value immensely because you’ll no longer just be ‘building for mobile,’ you’ll be building for your user,” says Klein. “And understanding how to build for your user is the best skill you can have, hands down.”
Design brings a mobile content strategy together. A cluttered look and feel doesn’t help anybody. Even though mobile traffic makes up 10% of global Internet traffic, the majority of businesses’ sites aren’t optimized for smartphone and tablet screens, says Lauren Indvik in Mashable. Particularly for longer-form content, this is a massive turn-off for consumers.
With so many trends, it can be difficult to identify the ‘right’ mobile look and feel.
Klein encourages marketers to stick to the basics.
“Try not to get caught up in trends and debates like ‘mobile first’ or ‘flat design vs. skeumorphism.’ These are distractions,” she says. “Understand your your users’ problems and needs and build things that make their lives better.”