Writing for the Mobile Web

Writing for the mobile web is a LOT like all those “writing for the web” articles you’ve probably seen before, but with more emphasis on scannability and engagement. Why?

Because writing for the mobile web has an audience mostly using smartphones. Three things apply here:

  1. You are writing for the small screen. So the ability to quickly scan content is HUGE.
  2. People are used to interacting with their smartphones. They “touch” Facebook and Twitter. They can comment, like, or share easily.
  3. People are easily distracted on smartphones. If your content doesn’t load fast, they’re gone. If it’s not engaging, they’re gone. If they don’t “get it” fast, they’re gone.

We have our jobs cut out for us, don’t we!

Here are some tips for writing for the mobile web (these also apply to writing for the general web):

Think short:

  • write short, to-the-point articles
  • edit, edit, edit – make every word count
  • Stick to one idea, topic, or goal per post

Create strong titles:

  • Make titles short. The BBC uses 5-6 words per title!
  • Front-load the title with appropriate words to make the point of the article clear and understandable out of context (i.e., for search engines)

Create actionable content:

  • Focus on the benefits of using the product or service, not the features. What’s in it for the reader?
  • Have a next step or call to action in each article. (i.e., check out this book, attend this program, etc.)
  • Always link to things you talk about (i.e., link to the catalog when mentioning books, etc.)
  • Frontload your content. The first paragraph of text should be stuffed with the most important content (think inverted pyramid).

Make content scannable:

  • No huge blocks of text – break up long paragraphs.
  • Break the rules and use fewer than 3 sentences per paragraph if needed. One sentence paragraphs are ok, if it looks correct on a mobile device!
  • Use headings, subheadings, lists and bullet points. These help make the content scannable.

Be conversational:

  • put your readers first. Speak to them, not at them. Use we and you.
  • Use informal, conversational writing. Blog posts are a conversation!
  • Ask questions, ask for a response.
  • Type like you talk. Read your content back to yourself. If it doesn’t sound like something you’d actually say, re-write it so it does.

Other articles:

What should be added here? What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

photo by Robert Patton

Thinking about Mobile Content Yet?

Mobile devices - December 2013My library’s web developer, Nathan Pauley, shared this article with me: The Mobile Moment, by Luke Wroblewski. In the article, Luke discusses how processes, priorities, and product thinking change when the majority of your web traffic shifts from desktop to mobile devices.

Probably a good thing to start thinking about now, rather than later. Why? Well, in my library’s case, we are getting closer all the time. For example, the image included in this post shows mobile visits for my library’s website for December 2013:

  • Blue = desktop website visits (67.4%)
  • Green = mobile device visits (20.3%)
  • Red = tablet device visits (12.3%)

So … add the mobile and tablet percentages together, and you get 32.6%. Almost 33% of web traffic coming from some type of mobile device! What was that percentage a year ago? A whopping 17.6%. If that rate continues, we’ll be around 50% mobile traffic in another year. Wowser!

What should we be thinking about when we hit 50% mobile traffic? Here are some thoughts – please add yours!

  • Responsive website, or at least some form of mobile website. That’s why my library is going responsive (our redesign should be live by the end of January!).
  • Mobile-friendly content. It’s not enough to have web-friendly content. Think about making that content mobile-friendly, too.
  • Easy ways to share, like, and interact with social media sites.
  • Quick ways to connect to library staff and to library content directly from a customer’s mobile device.

What else? Let’s get this mobile thing figured out!

How Do You Thank Your Facebook Fans?

Thanking Facebook Fans

How do you thank your organization’s Facebook Fans? Here’s how Tinley Park Public Library thanks theirs – with a photo of staff, giving a thumbs up and saying thanks!

Tinley’s staff wanted a way to say “thank you” to their growing Facebook fan base on their library’s Facebook Page. They had a couple of options that I knew about (they had asked for suggestions):

  • They could keep track of new fans, and when they hit 1000, they could thank that newest fan (requires some finagling of Facebook Insights to do this).
  • They could do something a little more general in nature, and thank everyone.

They chose to thank everyone in a really fun way – by posting a photo of themselves, saying “thanks” to their fans. How cool is that?

What’s good about this?

  • It’s easy and cheap
  • it’s fun and lighthearted, yet authentic
  • it’s visual – it communicates the message loud and clear
  • it puts a face to the organization, and to the real people behind the Facebook Page
  • It shows that face2face connection with customers that’s so important in organization-to-customer social media relationships

Great job, Tinley Park! You guys ROCK!

 

Online Storytimes by Wake County Public Libraries ROCK

Kevin Smith just pointed me to Wake County Public Libraries‘ series of online storytime videos. Wake County made them to support their local Every Child Ready to Read initiative.

They’re nicely done – go watch them! Here’s the link to their Youtube Playlist for all the videos. The video embedded in this post is an animated sing-along song video … and now that song is going to be stuck in my head the rest of the day. Can anyone say “earworm?”

And something to think about – we’re making digital branches. How are your YA/Kids/teens/etc services represented on your library’s digital branch? Currently, my library’s kiddo population is represented, but it’s sorta spotty (and we have an emerging plan to fix that – our Teen and Tween pages are the start of that). How about you? Some things to think about:

  • Are your webpages focused on kids? Or is it really just for parents?
  • Are your in-house activities mirrored online, like Wake County’s storytime videos? Or craft time? etc?
  • Games, fun stuff, goofy interesting facts? Or … homework help? Probably need both.
  • Older kids (think 13 and up) – social media? That the kids actually use?
  • Staff who know how to do all the above activities, or a way to train them?

How about you? What cook stuff for kids and teens does your library do on their digital branch? I’d love for you to share!

10 Trends Shaping how Content is Consumed Today – #BEA2013

Wow – the Book Expo America conference was busy and exhausting! I’m finally getting a chance to share some notes from some of the sessions I attended.

The first one comes from the final keynote at the BEA Bloggers conference (I was on the advisory board for this). Randi Zuckerberg talked – yes, Mark the Facebook guy’s sister. She has some interesting things to say about content:

10 trends shaping how content is consumed today:

1. You are more than what you write. People want to know the person behind the writing. Your passions. Show the messy, human side of your life.

2. Brands as media companies. We are all media companies. Example – Red Bull can function like an NBC, because they can post articles, journalist-style interviews, videos, etc.

3. Enhanced media. Starting to see that people will pay for what they love, even premium content online. Ed tech as example. I’ll also add Youtube’s recent threat to charge for premium content.

4. More signal, less noise. When we curate content, that’s a really useful thing for our readers. Those “what did you miss this week” lists from some blogs are a good example.

5. Images speak louder than words. Instagram, Pinterest, etc. let customers post pics. Or find your photo on Facebook, and tag it.

6. Think of yourself as an entrepreneur. She’s starting to see things like small startups within large companies. “Evangelist” jobs, etc.

7. The @ reply is the new autograph. Talking to fans makes them feel special – like when an author or “known person” replies to you via Twitter. Facebook chats, too.

8. Gameification of everything. Apply game mechanics to everything. She used the Gym Shamed app as an example – if you don’t go to the gym, it blasts out how lazy you were to all your friends. Or a scale that tweets your weight. There’s apparently a clock that donates your money to charity every time you hit snooze.

9. Video for everything. Newsrooms use Vine to show personality, or behind the scenes glimpses. Live stream from the fashion model out to an audience.

10. Etiquette and digital detox. How do I manage my professional digital reputation? How much screen time is too much for my kid? Not really tech tuff, but more modern living. Step away from the computer type stuff.

Interesting talk!