Call them what you wish but the fact remains, your audience begins to spend more time on their mobile devices. And with that, consume your content outside of what you might consider a favorable environment – while walking, commuting, or watching the evening movie.
Heck, according to this data by Jumio, 20% of young adults and 9% of Baby Boomers will even check notifications on their smartphone while having sex.
And so, here lies a challenge:
How do you create content that will speak to people who will view it on a smartphone’s limited screen real estate and while being in a rush (and no, I don’t mean sex, sorry…)?
That’s what I’m going to explore in this post. I’ll discuss what mobile audiences expect from content and how you could optimize what you publish to ensure it’ll engage them.
Intrigued? Then let’s do it.
Characteristics of the Mobile Audience
On average, we consume 42% of content on mobile devices.
In some countries, according to the recent study from Outbrain, the number exceeds 50%.
And the Mary Meeker’s KPCB 2015 Internet Trends report found that out of 5.6 hours we spend on the Internet a day, 3 are spent on mobile devices.
And as it turns out, we don’t consume content on mobile in the same way we do it on desktops
Our Reading Pattern is Different
I talked about reading patterns here on AdEspresso before. You can check the full post here. But to reiterate:
There are three key reading patterns online:
The F-Shaped, first described by Jakob Nielsen.
“Users first read in a horizontal movement, usually across the upper part of the content area. This initial element forms the F’s top bar.
Next, users move down the page a bit and then read across in a second horizontal movement that typically covers a shorter area than the previous movement. This additional element forms the F’s lower bar.
Finally, users scan the content’s left side in a vertical movement. Sometimes this is a fairly slow and systematic scan that appears as a solid stripe on an eyetracking heatmap. Other times users move faster, creating a spottier heatmap. This last element forms the F’s stem.“
Then, there’s the Gutenberg Diagram, in which users start reading in the top left area, and then, sweep down across the quadrants to the bottom right area.
These two areas receive the strongest attention.
The remaining two, however, receive little attention unless complimented with strong design elements.
And finally, we also read pages following the Z-pattern:
But the thing is, these patterns only apply to the desktop.
For one, there is not enough space on the mobile screen to use any of these patterns.
Second, responsive content often shifts elements in place to accommodate it on a smaller screen and in turn, breaks designs that were meant to instigate any of the reading patterns above.
Mobile users tend to look at the center of the screen, according to the research by Briggsby, a consulting firm led by Justin Briggs.
“On mobile devices, it seems that, on average, user attention is focused on the center and top half of the mobile screen. On average, 68% of attention is given to the top 1/2 of the screen and 86% of attention is given to the top 2/3 of the screen.”
Mobile users also have a short attention span
I’m sure you’ve heard about it already:
You now have a shorter attention span than a goldfish.
A study by Microsoft proved that we can’t concentrate for longer than 8 seconds. Here’s the link to a PDF with the research findings.
(Source: Microsoft Canada Attention Span research paper 2015)
The company also stated that:
“[…] the changes were a result of the brain’s ability to adapt and change itself over time and a weaker attention span may be a side effect of evolving to a mobile Internet.” (source)
A dwindling attention spam means that your audiences’ expectations for content change too.
They no longer want to consume something that demands longer periods of uninterrupted attention.
As a marketer, you should keep this in mind and create content that allows users to break free from it every couple of seconds, and still be able to go back for another jolt of information.
Later in this post, I’ll show you exactly how to do it.
Mobile audiences multitask (like crazy)
And that’s a well-known fact.
From walking and texting, shopping online while watching the favorite show, to using the Internet while driving, mobile audiences are often exposed to more than one screen or task at a time.
The challenge, however, is that all this constant switching from task to task drains our energy.
As Sarah Klein points out:
“When you think you’re multitasking, your brain is actually rapidly toggling between tasks, and because “each toggle depletes energy,” multitasking can actually drain you, leading to fewer accomplishments rather than more.”
So, to sum it up:
- Mobile audiences have different expectations for content.
- They consume it in a different pattern than on a desktop.
- They have a shorter attention span.
- And finally, they multitask while consuming the content, which leaves them tired and (nomen omen) less focused.
So now, how do you create content that meets this new behavior and engages the audience?
Here are a couple of suggestions.
#1. Use a Lot of Visuals
I’m sure you’ll agree:
Words don’t always cut it for someone with a limited time to process information, short attention span, and easily distracted.
Images, on the other hand…
90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual. And the brain can process it 60,000X faster than the text. (source)
According to the same source, 40% of people will respond better to visuals than text.
And according to this fantastic guide by Neil Patel, the web’s full of visual content.
To engage the mobile audience, include as much visual content as possible (or even convert a lot of your content entirely into visuals).
One more thing:
When deciding what images to use, remember that the best visual content for mobile devices is one that doesn’t include much interactivity, according to Matt Cooper from the Content Marketing Institute.
#2. Write Shorter Headlines
I bet you pay a lot of attention to the length of a headline for SEO. After all, there are only so many characters Google will display in a search listing’s title, right?
But the same principle applies to mobile.
Given the limited screen real estate, you should write headlines that don’t require the user to scroll or swipe the screen to see them.
So, scrap your titles from anything but the essentials. Stop words, for example, take precious real estate without adding anything significant to the copy.
#3. Use Shorter Paragraphs
Remember what we said about the mobile audience’s attention span?
It’s shorter than the average attention span of a goldfish.
But that’s not the most important take away from this.
Since mobile audiences get distracted so often, you need to create content they could consume in small chunks.
And one way to do it is by using shorter, even one line paragraphs.
This way, your reader will be able to read a paragraph or two before getting distracted. Also, the sheer size of the paragraph will not overwhelm them, increasing their chance actually to pay attention to it.
Even if only for 8 seconds.
#4. Create Shorter Content
Mobile audience is on the move.
They read your content on the bus or while walking or anywhere else. And they do many other things at the same time.
So naturally, your chances of them reading a lengthy content all the time are slim.
That’s one reason visual content prevails on mobile.
And that’s also why you should consider publishing shorter pieces too, to satisfy the mobile audience.
There are undeniable benefits of publishing epic content.
From higher rankings, engagement to virality.
But shorter content means that your audience can consume it too.
What’s more, you could consider launching mobile only content formats like a podcast. Most people would listen to them on their mobile devices. And given the unobtrusive nature of a podcast, it might mean even higher engagement with what you publish.
#5. Use Bullet Points
Lastly, format your content for quick skimming.
Use bullet points to list the key points you’re trying to make.
Set the most important sections of a paragraph in bold to make them stand out.
Mark quotes with italics or block quotes.
And use any other formatting that will make it easy for a mobile user just to swipe through your piece and still get the gist of it.