The hare and the tortoise – playing catch-up with the mobile web

It’s not every day I liken myself to a reptilian species but I feel like a right old tortoise compared to web designers who’ve been haring ahead and designing mobile websites for some time now.

I’m playing catch-up now and here’s why I think it’s important for content people as well as web designers to get their head round the mobile web in two sentences…

  • You need to know that more and more people are viewing the web via a mobile device – and no one wants reams of words (it’s even more important to choose words wisely)
  • The best mobile sites pare down their content – especially their nav – to suit the mobile form, and that’s where lovely content strategy people can help you designer types

If you already know what I mean by mobile website then great. If you don’t, here’s a site which will pick you up by the scruff of your neck and give you a good shake til you get it. Pay attention at the back there, content people!

Just to make it crystal clear, we’re not talking about an app here, it’s a mobile website – responsively designed to detect which type of mobile device you’re using to view its contents then giving you the news to fit your screen.

  • No tiny buttons to enlarge, no acres of text and miniscule links to click. Responsive design at its best.

How have they done it? On the technical front – no idea. But content? They’ve had a long, hard think about how to structure the content.

A great job they’ve done too

  • In terms of content, it doesn’t get much more unwieldy than BBC news. Yet you’ll find just two choices above the main story: top stories and most read.
  • You’ll find just four nav options – news, sport, weather, menu (what else would you want the BBC for?).
  • Headlines are short, stories are pithy (just a two-line intro on the home page) and there aren’t too many images to slow everything down.
  • There’s much less video on the site than the desktop version too – again to avoid slow loading and draining your smartphone battery.

Why you need to think mobile…the statistics

Some predict (in the US at least, and where they lead we follow) the use of mobile devices to view the web will overtake desktop use by late 2013. Or early 2014.

  • That’s one year away. Get your content house in order now!

Estimates vary (UK stats say the mobile share of web traffic may be a third already), but one thing’s for sure, the day is coming.

In the end it all boils down to the content mantra: think about your audience. Not only: What do they want from your site? But also: How do they want to consume it?

And if you pay attention to that when you’re creating new content you’ll stay one step ahead of the tortoise in 2013.