Making the Most of Mobile Content

Mobile content is a hot-button issue, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right for your business — or your clients. Here are notes from a presentation given at the Web Content Mobile conference by Jeff Eaton of Lullabot, and Karen McGrane from Bond Art + Science.

Barriers you’ll face:
For starters, what are you going to do to get all of your content to show up on a tiny screen? Also, touch screens make movable content a reality. How do you navigate mobile content with these difficulties in mind?

First things first: Prioritize. If you lose 80 percent of your screen size, you need to lose 80 percent of the content on your website. That includes navigation, promotions, and other interactions, too. There is no mobile context: You’re designing for people who have limited Wi-Fi access, or who want to read on their iPad, or for the person who is using the Web on their xBox. Making prioritization decisions has to take all of these contexts in mind–otherwise you’re doing a lot of people a disservice.

There is no mobile version. “Fragmenting our content across different “device-optimized” experiences is a losing proposition, or at least an unsustainable one.” -Ethan Marcotte, Responsive Web Design

So, now what? Built for flexibility; not for the latest trend. Once mobile becomes established, another new thing will take the stage. Treat your content as if you already know that it will have to be published across several different mediums. Throw out the old templates and forms for your content, and focus on creating a new way for content to be redistributed among a number of platforms.

Other issues:
Technology. Responsive design will solve problems at the design level, but not at the content level. The design adapts to device capabilities. This means you have ONE website. You still have to prioritize content, so that you don’t overwhelm mobile browsers. Sometimes apps are the answer: You have total control over the design, they are great for offline use, and they are great for tools and regular tasks. At the same time, app revenue source isn’t guaranteed, and the ioS versus Android platforms can be difficult to merge.

Also…what’s an API? It’s a way of providing access to the platonic form of content, before it gets turned into a page or a mobile screen. An API, at its core, gives access to the content so that you can use it in different ways. A CMS manages the actual content that you need and presents that content. An API allows you from a variety of other sources to access the content and use it in other platforms.

Bottom line: We need more than fields in a CMS that provide a place for Mobile content. We need to think about the size something will appear, how many characters we can allocate to different sections of a mobile site.

From an internal standpoint, how do you get people to understand mobile websites? We can’t let conversations about APIs devolve into conversations about specific mobile formats — we have to bring that content back to strategy and explain the value of it. The changing role as a content creator is what you should focus on: Don’t get caught up in the technology behind it.