As we discussed in our previous post “Using Content Strategy to Drive User Experience,” we talked about the importance of content in driving user experience design. But what does one do if you are talking content for mobile app development or mobile site design? Content is (or should be) decidedly limited, and therefore needs special considerations.
Designing the content for mobile applications is something we have become quite good at in a short period of time. Our mobile application developers are close to reaching their 50th application (iPhone™, Android™, BlackBerry® and Windows Phone™ applications) in the span of about a year and a half. At the beginning we did not quite know how to handle this new content scenario, but we have rapidly learned what works and what is simply too wordy.
Here are some considerations when designing content for mobile applications:
When it comes to mobile apps, people like to be told what to do. Not in a negative way, but in a way that allows them to never be confused about their next action. Verbs with a noun or short adjective can go a long way, and are really the only things the people need to guide them.
Stick to phrases like:
These may sound basic, but simple is better when navigating.
Minimalism & Focus
In his article, “What Websites can learn from Mobile,” Michael Wilson brings up a great point that seems so simple and obvious, but is often overlooked in mobile application development. When people user their smartphones, they are rarely just browsing. Rather, they are rather focused on a specific task. Smartphones really aren’t set up for effective and easy browsing and that often gets forgotten. This means that people try to throw everything but the kitchen sink into an app or a mobile site, leaving the user to sift through several levels of content till they get where they need to go.
Something that helps minimize the amount of content needed is to think about how someone is using your application. By the time they reach it, they will already know what they want to accomplish, and there is little need for wordy explanation.
Not only will focusing the function of the application to include a core set of functions benefit the flow of the overall application, but it will also make your content much easier to use. It will break it down to the functions and actions that make navigating so much easier.
The only place where wordiness might work is in instruction sections, about the application, or storylines that are critical explanations of the mobile application. This often occurs when creating mobile apps for games, or critical applications like banking or finance (times where people get nervous about what they are seeing). Take a note from mobile app development companies like Rovio, who developed Angry Birds. Instead of explanation they give a cool mini-video teaser as the backstory for the application.
If it is necessary to have paragraphs of information, try to make it the least intrusive. One explanatory paragraph before the user begins the function of the application. If further explanation is needed once in the application, try making info bubbles. These would be buttons for them to click on if they want more information, but won’t pop up until the user has need for them.
The same rule that applies with search results applies with content; you will probably lose many people after the first scroll, so keep it as brief as possible. If you find yourself writing too many of these, it might be time to reconsider the core function of the application. Think about it this way: if it requires too much backstory or explanation, it is probably too complicated for most users.
Does it fit in a button?
Now that question can be subjective depending on the size/need of a button, but if the text of your button requires two lines or more, you know the content might be too long. Use this as a litmus test to determine whether you are being too wordy or not.
Feel free to share your best practices when it comes to creation of content for mobile applications in the comment section, and follow up with our team if you are interested in mobile app development.