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Over the past few weeks, I’ve had a number of conversations and listened to several podcasts where people have opined on how content should be assembled for a company mobile website vs. a desktop website. There was a recurring theme that went something like this:
When creating your website, start by writing/creating the content for your mobile site first. Chances are when you come up with the important content you need for your mobile site, you’ll realize you don’t need any more content for your desktop site.
Ok, so let’s break that down into two parts.
The first part, “start with your mobile content first”, makes sense to me. The second part, “stop when you have put together your mobile content” does not.
Start With Mobile Content First
Starting with mobile in mind first makes sense on two fronts; content delivery and graphics.
When putting together your content for a mobile audience you have the challenge of pushing data over to devices that don’t have the bandwidth or processing power of desktop computers. Publishing the right content succinctly is critical. The idea of fleshing out your minimal priority content allows you to publish the important stuff in a compact way.
Similarly, your graphics need to be compact and speedy. Larger graphics mean bigger file sizes; that’s obvious to most people. But what isn’t obvious is that if you take a large graphic and artificially reduce it to fit on a small screen, it’s still the same size even though the graphic looks smaller.
To get around this, developers can create alternate versions of graphics that can be used for different scenarios. On the desktop, you get the big, full-screen graphic. On mobile you get a smaller iteration of the graphic. This methodology ensures that your mobile audience only gets what it needs and no more.
To be clear, while this ideology makes sense, there is nothing wrong with working in the opposite direction – from desktop to mobile. I’m not suggesting that one way is correct and the other is not. I’m simply proposing that both methods are perfectly reasonable.
What I don’t agree with is…
Once You Have Your Mobile Content, You Don’t Need Any More
No. No. No.
And again. No.
The folks who favor this idea have a reasonable argument; if you sit down and think really hard about your site’s content needs and produce the most streamlined and elegant version of your content for your mobile website, then that content should be strong enough for your desktop users.
It makes sense. In theory. But in practice, your mobile users aren’t your only users. On top of that, your mobile users will also likely be your desktop users at some point.
The reason we even have a discussion about the creation of mobile content is because of limitations – or some might say “the features” – of mobile devices. That should not preempt the capabilities of desktop devices. So here are some things to consider when creating your mobile content and debating whether you should create different content for your desktop.
Incentivize Your Mobile Customers To Come Back To Your Desktop Site
While your mobile content may be great, you may have more to say. Don’t hide it. Tell your mobile users that there is more to discover on your desktop site. And if that mobile user is willing, give them a link to your desktop site. This may present technical challenges depending on how your site is created, but new methods such as Responsive Design do a lot to mitigate the problems.
Remember The Infrequently Asked Questions
FAQs are great, but only for the people who have those specific questions. Dedicating space to questions that aren’t frequent will be helpful to those users who have different needs than the majority of your customers. Remember that to each individual, their question is the most important regardless of how you rank it.
You may or may not want to present these IAQs to your mobile audience but having them on your desktop site doesn’t have any down side.
Give Desktop Users Deeper Content
Mobile users typically want small pieces of information very fast. That’s not necessarily true of desktop users. A mobile user may be satisfied with a single paragraph of content that is distilled down to its essence, but the same user on a desktop may want to research deeper.
Video Is A Different Experience On Mobile And Desktop
Mobile devices that are capable of playing video face the challenge of bandwidth and power. If the device is on WiFi, then video may work fine; otherwise streaming video may present a challenge. In either scenario, video streaming will drain the battery quickly.
Creating small, highly compressed videos may be ideal for those mobile devices, but the quality would not be suitable for desktop playback.
Unless you are using some homegrown method, some of these video challenges can be mitigated by using a streaming service such as YouTube that automatically scales depending on the playback device.
But consider that you may want to produce shorter videos for mobile and longer, more detailed videos for desktop users. And don’t forget to…
Check Your Stats
When you first launch your site, it’s hard to make decisions about how to distinguish your mobile content from your desktop content. Once your site starts accumulating traffic statistics, you can use that information to make decisions about how to sculpt your content for mobile and desktop use.
Also, gauge the communications from your customers. If your customers are asking questions about content that is on your desktop site, but not your mobile site, then that is a loud indicator that that content should be on your mobile site as well.
Give Your Mobile Users Power To Manage Their Experience
Twitter has a series of features related to mobile use. For example, I can set my account to text my phone every time my wife tweets or every time someone retweets my tweets. It’s a very good feature.
But every once in a while, I am in a meeting or in an environment where I don’t want to hear the dinging of the texts from Twitter, but guess what? Twitter’s mobile interface does not allow you to manage your mobile settings.
The Twitter app has no option for managing texts. The Twitter site (when viewed on a mobile device) does not allow you to manage your mobile features. The only way to manage your mobile features is to log on to Twitter’s desktop interface. This is remarkably shortsighted. It would stand to reason that while I am on a mobile device, I would want to tweak how Twitter interacts with my mobile device.
Give Your Mobile Users The Same Key Features As Your Desktop Users
If you have an important or high-demand feature make sure to include it on both your desktop and mobile environment. One of my favorite training sites is Lynda.com. When you have a membership, you can watch training lessons on double speed. I do this if I want a refresher on a topic. I have the Lynda.com app on my iPad, but the double speed feature is not available.
I would probably consume more of their products and services if I was able to consume their content the same way on my mobile device.
Don’t Undermine Your Desktop Users To Satisfy Your Mobile Users And Visa Versa
Figure out how to create the best experience for all of your users. Find the nexus between your mobile users and desktop users and consider that your sweet spot, but don’t ignore anything outside of your sweet spot. If you don’t know what Response Design is, you owe it to yourself and your business to have at least a elementary understanding because it is the future of content delivery on the Internet.
Do you have your own thoughts on mobile versus desktop content? Let me know in the comments.