In the past couple of years, it’s become more important than ever for websites to be mobile-friendly.
With two updates to Google’s algorithm, both of which centre around favouring mobile-optimised sites, those that ignore this now risk a significant impact to search rankings.
Copywriting is undoubtedly a big part of the mobile experience – so how can brands get their message across on smaller devices? Here are four tips.
Consider the user context
Effective mobile copy does not just consider the user – i.e. who the person is or what they know about the brand or company – it also considers the context that they are in. This means where they are, what device they are using and even their state of mind.
For example, a train booking site like Trainline knows that mobile users are less likely to want to book in advance. If they are using a smartphone, they probably want tickets in real-time.
As we can see below, the desktop experience is largely geared around advance savings, whereas the mobile site is stripped back to focus on the current booking.
This is reflected in the copy, with the latter asking direct questions such as “where are you starting?” in place of “enter your origin station”, prompting the user to take direct action while on-the-go.
Favour usability over tone
While a strong tone of voice is effective for engaging users, it’s far more important to consider usability on mobile.
Short and compelling copy can help to counteract a limited word count and users with a shorter attention span. If copy merely clutters the page instead of aiding the user journey – it should be cut.
That being said, the fewer the words, the more impactful they should be. Sites that combine a strong tone with concise calls-to-action tend to be the most effective.
Pocket, the online service that allows you to save interesting articles and websites for later, is a great example of how to inject maximum information into the minimum amount of words.
Granted, its mobile site isn’t that different to desktop, but its succinct style is clearly designed with smaller devices and screens in mind.
Consider the user journey
As well as the physical or emotional context of the user, effective copywriting factors in where the user wants to go in their online journey.
This means including relevant links and prompts for navigation. Moreover, it also means ensuring that the copy is consistent throughout, even including things like error messages.
Often, this type of copy can be left to designers who will be more inclined to use language or phrases that are unfamiliar or jarring to the general public. This has the potential to disrupt the user journey, and even have a detrimental effect on conversion rates.
Including links within error messages is a great way to combat this, just like this simple but effective prompt for username recovery from MailChimp.
Update the golden triangle
The ‘golden triangle’ is a rule of thumb referring to the fact that users focus on the top left hand of the screen when reading on desktop. More recently, however, it has been suggested that this does not apply to mobile users.
A study by Briggsby shows that instead of attention being solely focused on the upper left, users take more of the screen into consideration, mainly due to the quick and short scrolling action required on smartphones.
Research found that 86% of attention is given to the top two-thirds of the screen, while it drops significantly at the bottom.
When it comes to copy, it’s important to take this into consideration. Placing the most important information at the top or centre of the screen helps reduce bounce rate and ensures the user’s attention is maintained.
Though it isn’t a perfect example of mobile design, Curry’s mobile site packs the most important information at the top.
Currently, it is displaying its January sales at the top of the page, separating everything into categories in anticipation of the user’s needs.
Unlike a lot of mobile sites, it does not require huge amounts of scrolling either, instead including a comprehensive side menu to guide the user onwards.
The pros and cons of the hamburger menu are debated in greater detail in a separate post by Ben Davis.