In their rush to cater to the ever-increasing number of mobile device users, many developers, web designers and content producers have come to believe in some common — and outdated — misconceptions.
Let’s set the record straight.
True or False
Misconception: 'Write less content'
The idea that mobile content should be shorter and more to the point is now conventional wisdom. The argument goes that people no longer engage with deep-dive content on mobile due to the smaller screens and “on-the-go” nature of phones or tablets.
But Google found that 90 percent of people use multiple screens sequentially, meaning users often take their experience from desktop to mobile whenever convenient for them. Some professionals make the mistake of offering less content on mobile than on desktop. If someone moves from desktop to mobile and can't find the content as they’d (understandably) expect, they’re going to have a poor experience.
Alternative: Design content to engage
An improved rule is not to write less content, but to write better content. Make content compelling and useful, paying particular attention to how visitors engage with it. Many users will skim titles and subtitles to decide if they want to spend their time on a piece. Help them out by providing strong visual cues in your content: underlines, clear sub-headers, bullet points, bold fonts. These cues allow users to better understand a piece of content with a glance and to know what they’ll be getting out of it.
Misconception: 'Design comes first'
What ought to come first is excellent content. Without engaging content, a great mobile design is just window dressing that provides little value on its own. Content must be the core concern, which the design then supports.
Alternative: Guide customer behavior
Set goals for user behavior and create clear calls to action that will achieve them. Your audience should always understand where to go on your mobile site and what actions they can perform. Make sure each link or form on your site makes a clear and simple offer that encourages users to respond.
Misconception: 'Put important content above the fold'
This is a throwback rule from the newspaper business, where the top half of the folded paper acted as an advertisement for passersby to note, causing them to pick it up and pay for it. In mobile design, the idea translates to presenting the most engaging content on the user’s screen first, so they see it before scrolling down. However, adopting this idea in the digital realm sometimes leads to people cramming content into the top section and neglecting the rest of the page. It’s better to simply design a quality experience top to bottom.
Alternative: Optimize for speed
Make sure that top-to-bottom high quality content loads quickly. Users won’t be able to engage with your content if they get tired of waiting for a slow site to load.
One trick: images can be compressed to the smallest functioning file size to boost site performance — or even replaced entirely using code, CSS and SVG. You can also serve device-specific content, ensuring that people browsing on their phones aren’t downloading huge desktop-sized images and videos when they come to your site, but instead faster loading content sized for the device.
However, don’t do the following …
Misconception: 'Use devices as breakpoints'
In the early days of mobile design, it was feasible to build calls-to-action for specific resolutions and screen sizes, based on the limited number of devices on the market. Now, with so many options, this approach no longer makes sense.
A grid system will more effectively enhance the experience as screen size increases. Create sizing rules around the action you want your user to take (as well as for headlines, copy and padding) to achieve a consistent, high quality experience available across all devices and screen sizes.
Alternative: Offer smooth conversion
Going a step further, once you win over a user with your content, you want to make the conversion process as smooth and inviting as possible. For example, offer field specific inputs: when you want someone to enter a number, give them a number pad or slider, not the full keyboard (enlisting the grid system to keep it consistent as screen size dictates).
Take advantage of tools like autofill to pre-fill in as much information as you already have on the user, and in-line validation so that when the user makes a mistake in a field they will be alerted right away, without needing to reload the page and find the line with the error. This decreases frustration (measured as page abandonment), and boosts conversion.