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How Do You Write for Mobile Devices?
The question mark at the end of the headline is intentional. Rather than try to answer questions with this post, I’d like to raise some questions and start a conversation. Innate’s most recent foray into the mobile world got me thinking about the challenges inherent in writing mobile content.
As a web writer of a certain age, I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with the tenets of writing for websites: Cut the fat. Don’t make users think. Write for your audience. Optimize, optimize, optimize, etc. But what are the rules for writing for mobile devices? How do you write for mobile devices, really?
I’m not sure I know—yet—but here are a few ways I’m starting to think about amending some of those aforementioned tenets:
Cut the fat
If it’s important to be concise on the web, it’s freakin’ essential when you go mobile. One way to pare down the word count as much as possible is to work very closely with designers and your UX team. Images, layout, sound, etc. can all help to pack in meaning that gives context to your words.
Don’t make users think
One of the best phrases ever coined about web writing and design, this is even more vital in the mobile world. Multitasking and mobile go hand-in-hand, and as a result, your user’s already short attention span becomes positively miniscule. Your content has to give the user a clear and unambiguous path to his or her end goal.
Write for your audience
Look at the demographics that define your mobile audience. I admit that this is something I’m just beginning to research on an industry-wide basis. But when writing mobile content, you should ideally try to tailor your content for those specific users. Are they younger? More heavily male/female? Do they fall into a niche? Do your homework and write accordingly.
Optimize, optimize, optimize
I had an Oprah-sized “Ah-ha” moment when I read this insightful post by Beth Graddon-Hodgson. She pointed out that people search differently on their mobile devices. Specifically, their queries are “more concise.” As she puts it:
“If you want to find out if your dog could have fleas, on the computer you may type “signs that my dog has fleas” into Google. On your mobile device you may simply type “dog fleas.”
The consequences for optimization are obvious.
So there you have it: My initial thoughts about writing for the mobile medium. It’s a topic I plan to spend a lot of time thinking, studying, and probably arguing about for the foreseeable future, so I’d love to hear what you have to say.
Let’s start the conversation, shall we?