How to write for mobile readers

Young Man with cell phone walkingCreating content and not considering mobile users? It could cost you readers. With smartphone ownership close to overtaking laptop ownership and continuing to grow, mobile web browsing is only set to increase. The average smartphone user already spends two hours a day on their phone and 60% of web browsing is now done on a mobile.

With this in mind, all web content should be created with the view that it’s highly likely to be read on a mobile device.

Why is reading on a mobile different?

We read on a screen in a different way to paper. We impatiently scan pages, leaving within seconds if we don’t find what we’re looking for. It’s difficult to get, and keep, the attention of web browsers, and for mobile users it can be even harder. Mobile readers are:

  • Reading on a smaller screen. Although phone sizes are growing, screens are still a lot smaller than the average PC or laptop.
  • Probably not paying full attention. Phones are commonly used during in small bursts in between other activities or used as a second screen while doing something else.
  • Likely to be interrupted at any time. Not only are mobile readers less likely to be paying full attention, they’re also more likely to be interrupted at any point by a call, text or notification.

How to write for mobile readers

Writing for mobile readers is very similar to writing for laptop or desktop readers. All the usual best practice rules for writing web content – like making copy scannable and using plain English – still apply, in fact they’re even more important.

Depending on how your website is set up, you may be creating mobile-specific content, or content to be read across all devices. Either way, writing content “mobile first” will ensure it is effective for everyone. Here’s three ways to improve your mobile copy.

1.      Be succinct

With such a small screen, there isn’t space for long winded and wordy copy. Get straight to the point and use short sentences and plain language. Usability expert Steve Krug’s tip to “get rid of half the words on each page, then get rid of half of what’s left” is especially pertinent for mobile copy.

2.      Keep your reader in mind

Write and structure your page with the end goal of the reader in mind. Make your call to action super clear and if your call to action is a button, ensure it is as large as possible to make it easy to click on a small screen.

Where possible, avoid unnecessary video or visual content, and be wary of adding large images which may slow the loading of the page on slow connections.

3.      Make content scannable

In addition to making your copy as straightforward as possible, breaking it up by using short sentences, paragraphs and subheadings will make it easy to scan. Bullet points can also help make your copy easier to digest.

Put the most important points at the beginning, this way they’ll always be read, even if a reader abandons your content halfway through.

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