Mobile content – the eyes have it

At the risk of stating the obvious, the proliferation of hand held devices and the emergence of responsive design has changed the way users engage with content. This poses new challenges for content strategists, not only in terms of what-goes-where but how the content engages the eye of the viewer.

Training

For some time I’ve been working with clients and delivering training that holds the content implications of responsive design (and mobile first) at its core.

Content ordering for mobile

Responsive design repositions chunks of content that might populate a standard web page horizontally (as viewed on a big screen), to enable vertical viewing on smaller screens. The visual below illustrates a simplified view of what typically happens.
standard content layout web and mobile
As a result, users are increasing scanning less distance left to right, while being prepared to drop further from the top of a screen to the bottom, in search of what they need.

Of course, the content does not have to follow the A, B, C, D ranking when it is repositioned.

So we all need  to think carefully about how we want our content to be served up on smaller devices.

What makes sense, top right on a desk top, may be less relevant on a mobile. For example, on a mobile you may be better opting for A, C, D, B, reflecting things such as the preferred vertical position for data capture forms, call to action/buy buttons, key offer text, links etc (when viewed on a narrow screen).

Some content may be dispensed with altogether. Depending on your content management system you may be able to make huge numbers of changes dependent on the type of device is being used to view with.

But there are a number of other factors to take into account. Not least how mobile devices require visually appealing, as well as useful content and how even small amounts of content need to operate independent of other elements on the page. These are what I tend to term “eye-modules”.

We all know that users do not consume page content in its entirety. Most of us keep in mind that critical “golden triangle”, which reflects the F-pattern work done by Jakob Nielsen and later underpinned by the way people consume (or consumed) Google search results.

The two images below underpin this traditional view.

traditional web page layouttraditional web page layout with heat map overlay
But… this is changing.

My own analysis and review of the latest research indicates that while mobile searching is stretching how far downward we are willing to scan when looking for useful information – whether that’s a website viewed on mobile or Google search results – we still seem to deploy a mini F-pattern when we find something that engages us.

eye module mini F patternSo… where am I going with all this?

I think content needs to be constructed with the eye-module in mind.

This means each content module or chunk needs to contain more component parts, allowing for more self-contained/independent delivery.

Button love

Content strategy

In practice it means integrating more calls to action and links and more integrated use of buttons.

For example, I’ll be looking to embed buttons into images (where it makes sense) and have learned a lot from Facebook ad construction.

And I’ve been particularly struck by the layout below from the Sumo Me website. It strikes me there are some interesting, and very visually appealing, lessons to be learned.
sumo me website

More reading

readThere’s a whole load of research out there to do with the way our eyes and brains work together to consume content but Wikipedia on eye movement is not a bad place to start, if you’re interested.

I’ve also written about this topic on the Emarketeers’ blog

Digital domination – don’t leave it to the powers that be

77 twitterA couple of years ago I came across a very scarey phrase in a United Nation’s document about digital governance. It spoke about ‘controlling the internet’.

Now, on one level, the powers that be are only interested in controlling something if it is powerful, so hat’s off to the internet and in particular, the self-publishing and social communicating it has enabled. But ‘boo’ to any big cheese or brass hat that wants to control it.

Where the internet gets its power

The internet is as powerful as it is because of the egalitarian nature of its access. Countries who attempt to restrict access to the internet are inevitably repressive regimes. Okay, so some of us (individuals and organisations) are still learning how to conduct ourselves in this massively liberating space, but I’m sure it was the same for cavemen when they first saw flames lick around dry tinder. Something that game changing; well, you’re bound to get burned in the early days.

Which is why I currently have misgivings about the army’s revelation that it’s setting up a special unit skilled in non-lethal warfare and where recruits will need to be adept with social media and its use. On the face of its, no bad thing. It’s obvious that if you’re going to win hearts and minds and keep boots off the ground, the major battle grounds will be virtual and psychological.

“shaping behaviour through the use of dynamic narratives”.

But what disturbed me was tucked away in the announcement. It’s the bit where Chief of the Army, General Sir Nick Carter speaks about “shaping behaviour through the use of dynamic narratives”. Now, don’t get me wrong. On one level all of us involved in content strategy have such an ambition. Create the right story. Engage the right audience. Shape a space that delivers the desired action.

You win customers – not wars – in 140 characters

But when the Chief of the Army says it I get a little spooked. The reality is that commercial organisations have spent decades, possible centuries, learning the marketing and communications skills that allow them to engages audiences and working within evolving guidelines and regulatory bodies, in terms of what they can and cannot say.

I’m not sure that the army, no matter how carefully it recruits to the new 77th Bridgade, has those skills. General Carter has an impressive military career. Appointed to post towards the end of last year he is keen to persuade civilians and politicians that the army has a place and deserves a secure budget line.

But miliary experience of content strategy is grounded in war time experience and the Cholmondley Warner school of public service announcements. The only area where it has progressed, in my opinion, is in recruitment, where its use of commercial agencies and the more clear cut customer conversion dynamic have created creditable, well executed marteting messages.

Boots on, on in, the internet?

My worry is that the boots on the internet will still be controlled by a generation of senior military personnel who are not socially mediate and view the interweb as something of a threat; roamed be terrorists, anarchists and young people. Watch their space.