Making your Content Consumable on Mobile Devices

How many times have you walked into a waiting room and whipped out your smartphone to kill the time until your name is called? Or maybe you’ve gotten into a crowded elevator and your fellow travelers are all engrossed in their mobile devices – emailing, texting, checking sports scores, playing games, etc.  While smartphones have all but changed the way we kill time, these situations are just the scenarios users will find themselves in when they find your mobile content.

In January of 2011, users spent an average of 422 minutes browsing the web on their mobile devices each month1.  Most people who spend time browsing the web on a mobile device do so because they’re on a break from something else or they need something right now.  Either way, they’re likely to have a limited amount of time to find and consume your content.  Keeping that in mind, there are things you can do to ensure your content is easily consumable by mobile users.

What do you have to offer that people need “right now”?  Mobile users are more likely to have content in mind when they pick up their mobile device; they want to check their account balance, they want to purchase something, they want to research something quickly, or they want something to entertain them.  Now think about everything you have on your site – how much of it is relevant to a mobile user?  If you’ve got a lot of content that is better served on a full-size screen or can’t be viewed on a non-flash supported device, that content is probably better off being left out of the mobile site.  Content that isn’t essential should be reconsidered when filtering content to your mobile site.  Sift through your analytics to see what content is most viewed by visitors to your full site to determine what would be ideal to include in your mobile version.

Keep it simple.

Along with sorting through your content to filter what a mobile user is likely to need, try to keep the mobile content brief.  Not only are most mobile users usually in between other tasks, but they’re trying to read your content on a small screen.  If the content is long, they’re not going to stick around to scroll through long pages of text.

Surface your content.

Websites are filled with functionality that isn’t necessarily mobile friendly (think, hover states and deep layers of categorization).  People looking for content on your mobile site can’t hover and they don’t want to sort through layer upon layer of categorization to find the information they’re looking for.  Keep your categories simple and make sure that content is organized clearly to keep clicks to a minimum.

Only include essential images. 

Many users will be accessing your content in places where they don’t have access to a wireless connection, which makes loading images a longer process than some users may be willing to wait through.  You don’t want to serve the same images on your mobile site as you do on your full site, they’re probably going to be far bigger than you really need on a mobile device.  However, if images are critical to the user experience, include them, but make sure they’re optimized for mobile devices and they’re used only where necessary.

Finally, have a way out.

There will always be someone out there who wants access to your full site, even if they know that they’re going to have to pinch, zoom, scroll, etc.  Chances are, these users know what they want to gain from your site and, if they can’t get to it on their mobile device, they may leave and go somewhere else to find the content they’re looking for.