Ever since the iPhone was launched, people have been predicting the end of the laptop and desktop computers as we know them. This month the world moved a step nearer to that prediction as, for the first time, internet activity via mobile devices overtook that of their less portable brethren.
For adults that means 2hrs 26mins online via smartphone or tablet per day, against 2hrs 13 mins online via the desktop. Some would say that’s more of a draw than a whitewash; until that is, you look at the trends. Since 2011 that figure for the desktop has grown year on year by 3 minutes, or about 2.25%, while mobile online usage has increased by about 500% over the same period.
Not, of course, that this is a competition; but it certainly is a challenge – especially for the creators of the content that all this online action demands.
Internet surfers today are very, very savvy and they know exactly what good looks like; some have been there right from the beginning and many of the rest think it’s always been here, like the land, sea and sky; a gift of nature. The internet today is like another place, a parallel electronic existence and, like any place, if it doesn’t look good then people just don’t want to come.
So how do you make something look just as good on a four inch screen as it does on a 48 inch screen, especially when the same visitor may view the same material on both extremes at some time during the day?
The worst possible strategy is designing for the big screen and just hoping most of the content can be seen on the mobile one. Nor do you want to design only for the small screen and end up with something that looks like weirdly out of scale on the desktop.
The bottom line of course, is that there’s no ‘one size fits all’ solution to content design. Anyone who wants a successful web presence must invest in a version optimised for mobile, desktop and all options in between; and that means intelligent design.
A small picture on a desk top screen is a small picture; on the mobile it would be a dot. Scroll on a desktop and you can scan the content; scrolling the same stuff on a mobile and it’s a blur followed by a migraine.
For the mobile it’s short sentences, clear graphics and, because it’s a little more effort to view because your audience might be walking, on a train or plane, or simply taking a quick time out at the work-station, the most important thing is engagement; you must engage to reward that extra effort.
Of course, guess what native content is really good at? Engagement. Native and mobile devices are perfect for each other; you’re not fighting the viewer for attention, trying to distract them, you’re the reason they’re looking, because you’re engaging, entertaining and relevant; just a little smaller, that’s all.