Writers generally don’t have to worry much about website design and layout when they write. Where mobile content is concerned, however, design is a major consideration and giving some extra thought to the wording and structure of content is imperative toward creating higher quality content for the reader.
It’s Like Fencing
If you need an easy way to think of how to write mobile friendly content, think of fencing. Lead with the point. Mobile devices have screens of varying size, but they’re all much smaller than a computer monitor, obviously. This means that you want to craft your content so that it can be easily broken up into small pieces. If you have any experience in journalism, this should come easily.
The article referenced above, from Site Point, mentions the “inverted pyramid” style of writing used by news reporters. It’s a particularly useful way to structure content designed for a mobile device.
The inverted pyramid style is characterized by putting the most relevant piece of information first. Supporting information follows. Here’s a quick example to drive the point home, no pun intended. The first example is not in the inverted pyramid style, the second is.
- A charming Italian bistro located in one of the most fashionable parts of town, Corleone’s offers affordable eating in the 6th Avenue Business District, located at the corner of 6th and Main.
- Corleone’s is located on 6th and Main. It is a moderately-priced restaurant serving Italian fare.
The first example would be great for a regular screen, as the reader has plenty of room to read the content and the few extra seconds it might take for a longer article to download isn’t an issue. On a mobile device, however, a reader is probably just looking for the address and wants it fast. Again, lead with the point, and then expand as you include more content.
Consider what They’re Doing
Mobile internet users are oftentimes in distracting environments. As Sticky Content points out, it’s a good idea to consider them as being on the move when they’re reading the content.
Cut down on your words whenever possible. Remember that the screen is small and that they’re probably looking for some specific information, not reading the Internet as a way to relax or entertain themselves. While adding a bit of style and a unique voice is important to creating good content, remember that you are, essentially, speaking to someone who has a lot of other things around them that are probably just as interesting, or more so. Take that into account and write short, concise sentences. Think Hemmingway, not Faulkner.
Work Those Headlines and Subheadings
Mashable gives a very good piece of advice where headlines for mobile content are concerned: think like you’re tweeting. That means writing short headlines that get the point across in a few words.
Your headlines and subheadings are vital to compressed content. They let the reader know what’s in the paragraph that follows and whether or not it’s relevant to them. Make sure your subheadings serve this purpose. It prevents readers from wasting their time and, of course, it’s more likely to catch their eye in a distracting environment.
A Great Example
The Sticky Content article referenced above is linked to from a Twitter account. The tweet provides a great example of how to craft something that is short, to the point and that makes you want to follow the link. It reads:
“Writing mobile friendly content: Top tips”
To put it directly, that’s perfect. It tells the reader exactly where the link goes and, if they follow it, it delivers. This is what mobile content, when done correctly, looks like. It’s most important feature is that it doesn’t waste the user’s time, their bandwidth and the user can easily and quickly scan it and see that it’s what they’re looking for.
Lists are great for mobile devices. They tend to encourage the type of writing that plays well on such devices. They’re also easy to scan through, which is what most users are going to be doing when they look at content on a mobile device.
Lists also make it possible to keep messaging consistent without getting too wordy. For example, an auto repair shop that advertises certified mechanics, guaranteed work and the best prices on parts as their principal message to customers could convey that entire message in very few words. In list form:
- Certified Mechanics
- Best Part Prices
- Guaranteed Work
That might seem simple, but for a mobile device user it means that the page loads fast and it gets straight to the point. For the business owner, it means that the potential customer is less likely to look for a different site out of frustration that theirs doesn’t load quickly enough.
Throw Away Your Thesaurus
Keep the language simple and to the point. Avoid overly long words and, remember, writing content for mobile sites is not an occasion to show off your command of the English language. Again, being concise counts for a lot, but that means more than just choosing your words carefully.
Some of the best writing is done by cutting away what’s been written rather than adding to it. This is doubly important when writing for mobile sites. If a paragraph can be put to the ax, then do so. Get rid of it. Replace it with something more relevant and useful.
If you’re vexed by this, take a look at Purdue’s guide on writing in the inverted pyramid style. While newspapers may be fading into the past, newspaper writers also had to struggle to fit information into very limited space, so this style of writing is particularly useful. It keeps everything focused on the point at hand and it makes it very easy for people to get the information they need. If they want to dig deeper, they can, but if they just need information and need it fast, they won’t be frustrated.