Thinking Mobile-First to Improve Content Across Platforms

Published Jul, 16 2015
Business Writing Tips, Content Marketing
This session was presented live at a past SoundBoard event.
Content Track
10:00 am - 10:50 am

As smartphone use explodes, mobile search makes huge gains, and devices rapidly evolve, brands have to be on their toes. To keep up as efficiently as possible, we’re learning that content creation has to work on every platform. Instead of guessing at user intent by hypotheses of context, we need to work at talking to every web user everywhere.

Focusing adaptable content through the lens of mobile design — or “one web” — can make all content better, regardless of how it’s viewed.


Google’s recent algorithm update promised better ranking placement for mobile-friendly sites. And although the update only applied to mobile search, this change was hyped. Even mainstream media was anticipating that Mobilegeddon would affect some 40% of top sites.

The aftermath has been less than astounding — Search Engine Land goes so far as to say that nothing happened — but, for once, Google is clearly communicating its intent. The search monster wants to increase visibility for mobile friendly sites, and decrease visibility for mobile-unfriendly sites. That means that mobile load times, navigation, and general usability are more crucial than ever.

Worried? In preparation for the update, Google provided a tool to analyze whether your site is labeled mobile-friendly. If you’re getting the red bar of shame, check out the Google Developers guide to avoiding common mobile mistakes.

The Real News in Mobile

Here’s what should be grabbing headlines. In May, Google AdWords announced a development that has been anticipated within the search community for years:

“More Google searches take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries including the US and Japan. This presents a tremendous opportunity for marketers to reach people throughout all the new touchpoints of a consumer’s path to purchase.”

This means that if you want to be found, you need to adapt to multi- and cross-device experiences. Where developing separate mobile sites once seemed to be the answer to the emerging mobile market, responsive design enables the layout of your site to change based on the size and capability of the device in use.

As different screen sizes ebb and flow in popularity, developers use responsive to address users’ various needs. We need to build our content with the same adaptability in mind.

COPE: Create Once, Publish Everywhere

Mobile may be dominating, but using my smartphone browser still feels pretty stupid. When you have to go through fifteen screens to access a company’s available services, business hours, location, and contact information, you’re being taught a lesson. The lesson is “don’t be that guy.”

On the other hand, being sent to a dumbed-down mobile interface can make getting information impossible.

mobile site

So while the goal-oriented mobile user isn’t exactly a myth, we’ll tell you what is: the narrative that mobile web users don’t want to get their hands on everything desktop users can. Focusing on content parity keeps you out of the wormholes so often associated with using non-desktop platforms, and it keeps your content as a whole tight and relevant.

Create Once, Publish Everywhere is one application of the “one web” philosophy: namely, that there is no mobile web. Creating a single set of content with structure enough to adapt to its canvas enables you “to deliver content wherever your customer wants to consume it.

You can’t choose which device your audience uses, and you really shouldn’t want to. Investing in responsive design and responsive content capitalizes on the traffic that flows from all directions.

Write Right

We can talk all day about why you can’t infer your user’s intent, but let’s focus on how to audit your content to create that holistic user experience. Content Marketing Institute says “Don’t write better. Write less.

Your site overwhelmingly consists of copy, so we’ll start there.

Answer questions before they’re asked.

Use your interaction with customers, keyword research, and traffic data to shape the subjects of your landing pages. Don’t ignore the question that’s been posed fifty times. Develop a post or page to immediately answer the question, and immediately show the value of your content.

Simplify, don’t diminish.

Don’t give your user a limited mobile menu based on the assumption that you know what she wants. She wants everything, and you set yourself up for failure by omitting pertinent information. If you don’t think an aspect of your web presence is useful, eliminate it across platforms.

Strip out the fluff.

There is no formula here. Because it’s hard to pare things down, content often has a ton of extraneous parts and superfluous language. Ask yourself whether a step, a page, or a phrase contributes to your meaning, and make your move from there.

Be meaningful.

Don’t just fill up the space to bulk up your site. Use simple and direct sentences. You’re in great shape on any screen if you’re able to clearly and concisely communicate your ideas, using strong headlines and ample spacing.

Create clear navigation.

Considering the archetypal purchase-oriented mobile user should actually help you bushwhack a straightforward and compelling conversion path. Make moving through your site as simple as possible with a streamlined navigational structure and direct calls-to-action. This will benefit even the purest purveyor of desktop.

Mirror your audience’s language.

Talk like a person. When your customers can relate, your content will resonate.