What does this mean for people who write content?
More and more people are using their smartphones to visit websites. Smartphones have a limited display area, and webpage content is generally slower to load than on desktops. As a result, front-loading your content is crucial on mobiles, so that your users can quickly assess your article and decide whether to keep reading.
- Learn to write in the Inverted Pyramid style
– so that your most important information is at the top.
- Look to news sites to see how they optimise their content for mobile usage. See below
Mobile web usage overtakes desktop in 2016
Mobile web usage worldwide overtook desktop computers for the first time in October 2016. In an article titled “Mobile web usage overtakes desktop for first time“, published in the Telegraph UK in November 2016, James Titcomb says:-
Statcounter, a research company that tracks internet use across 2.5m websites, said 51.3pc of pages were loaded on mobile devices in October, the first time they have surpassed desktop and laptop computers.
This is up from less than 5pc in 2010 and less than 25pc three years ago. Smartphones accounted for 46.5pc of traffic, against 4.7pc for tablets.
This predominance of mobile web usage is a worldwide average. These figures can vary from website to website. One of my American clients has a website that has over 70% of its visitors using mobile devices, while my own website, webwisewording.com, has only 22.4% of mobile visitors as opposed to desktop or laptop visitors.
Look to your visitor statistics to find out whether your website has a smaller or larger than average percentage of mobile users. Whatever your situation, be aware that this is a rising trend, and you can expect that in the near future the majority of visitors to your site may be using smartphones.
Optimising your mobile user experience
Test your content for how easy it is to read on a smartphone
This is a good exercise to help you assess whether your content is front-loaded. Read your article on a smartphone, and try to imagine you are a new user, reading it for the first time.
If you have written your content on a desktop, then you might be surprised at your first impression when you view it on a smartphone. For example, you might get the impression that it’s overwhelmingly long, and needs to be broken into 2 articles. Or you might notice that the first one or two paragraphs don’t represent what the article is about.
You can test it either by viewing the article on your smartphone, or on your desktop by using a simulation tool which you can find as an extension for your browser.
Is your article mobile-friendly?
Try to assess how well your article displays on a smartphone, for example:-
- Is it easy to read?
- Is the most important information on the top and the least important information at the bottom?
- Is it easy to skim and scan? If it’s easy to skim, this means you can get a quick overview of the main points in the entire document. If it’s easy to scan, this means you can easily scan it looking for points of interest and ignoring the rest.
- Is there enough white space? On smartphones, you need to break up long sentences into shorter ones, and break up long paragraphs into multiple shorter ones. Long tracts of text are overwhelming on a smartphone – even more so than on desktops.
Test it further through a paid user testing service such as usertesting.com, where you can specify that you want the testers to use a smartphone for user-testing your webpage(s). Read more about paid user testing services.
What news sites know about mobile users
If you need ideas and inspiration for improving your mobile user experience, look to news websites. They excel in optimising their content for mobile viewers. If you visit your favourite news site (or try https://www.theguardian.com/) on your smartphone you will notice a number of things:-
- Their article titles grab the attention of visitors and are designed to entice them to click to read. Their article titles are also meaningful and represent what the user can expect to find in the article content.
- They use colorful images to make the article look interesting. These images show as thumbnails when you are browsing the site, and make the articles look more appealing to read.
- Their menu system is easy to navigate.
- Their websites are easy to skim and scan, so you can browse for articles that interest you.
- Their articles are easy to skim and scan so you can skim them to get a quick overview, or scan them for points of particular interest.
- Their articles are written in the inverted pyramid style with the most important information at the top and the least important information at the bottom, so you can read just part of the article and know that you have come away with the main points.
- The content is fast loading, even on smartphones. This is most likely because they are using a new technology called AMP or Accelerated Mobile Pages 1. By making their content fast loading on mobile devices, the user experience is vastly improved.
Faster Mobile Web browsing
What is AMP or Accelerated Mobile Pages? It is an open source initiative developed cooperatively by a number of contributors including Google. Its purpose is to provide a technology which allows for fast display of webpages on mobile devices.
The AMP service was launched in February 2016. It has its own version of HTML – AMP-HTML which is intended to help webpages load rapidly when clicked in Google’s search results pages, though there are reports that results have varied. It remains to be seen whether this new approach will become a standard or not, but the following 6-minute video indicates what they are trying to achieve:-
Speeding up your page display for mobile users
You may not be able to afford to implement AMP technology to speed up the mobile version of your website. But if you are choosing a theme for a new website, and you expect a significant percentage of mobile users, then look for a streamlined theme that is fast loading.
Themes or website templates that are beautiful and have many fancy features, especially visual page builders, can be bloated and slow to load webpages. So if mobile usage is important to you, consider sacrificing the fancy features and look for a fast loading simple theme. And talk to your web developer about speeding up your website.Top