Content for Mobile Websites

Mobile first, responsive design, mobilizing plugins, separate mobile sites?  Discussions of the web experience for mobile devices dominate gatherings of web pros right now, but the actual content tends to be left out of the conversation. I was, therefore, very pleased when content strategist Karen McGrane answered my question on the subject in this month’s .net Magazine.

Not just my question, of course — she answered five of us and made some great points. If you think some of your customers are visiting you by phone (and you can find out with your analytics), this will give you a starting point for discussions with your web people.

One of the big questions is this: what content should be on your mobile site? This was a great question when the discussion began, because people were using mobile devices to get maps, directions, a phone number, and similar quick pieces of information. They weren’t trying to read things on their phones and there weren’t any tablets.

Now, your visitors might be comparing product reviews in the aisle of a store, watching your videos in the back of the classroom, or reading your white papers in the airport.

“We don’t get to decide,” McGrane wrote, “what device people use to consumer our content. Users do… And if you don’t think some of your content merits being on mobile, well then, it probably doesn’t need to be on the desktop site either.”

Justin Kopepasah made the same point at WordCamp KC. We can no longer make good generalizations about mobile users that are significantly different from the generalizations we can make about all our visitors.

In answer to my question, what we ought to do about this when it comes to the words on websites, McGrane echoed an article (also in .net) that really made me think: we should stop thinking in terms of pages, and start thinking about smaller pieces. “Writers,” she said, “will need to embrace the idea that they are writing flexible chunks of content, rather than crafting individual pages.”

The article that caught my eye said it’s time to stop doing mockups of web pages in PhotoShop. The page below is really a collection of boxes of content. If we rearrange those boxes for different devices,  we will still have the same website, in some sense, but if we have pages in our minds, we’ll be too focused on Above the Fold and the Look at Me Area to be happy with those different arrangements.

We should see the box with the picture of the pink car as one piece, the box with the “Here’s what we do” information as another, the box with the blog posts as another, and the box with the videos as another.

Since this is a WordPress site, those boxes all really are in different places. We just call them all onto the homepage when we look at that page. But even a traditional html/css website should, in the age of mobile, be approached conceptually as a collection of boxes (or chunks or pieces, if those words work better for you) which can be rearranged to suit tablets, smartphones, and whatever is coming up next that we can’t now predict.

It’s a new way of looking at things, but the time to make the change may be now, especially if you’re thinking about changing your website to suit mobile devices.

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