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.


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

Content strategy – your future is calling

Time was digital content was a modest little thing – some lines of text, a few hyperlinks, a picture or two… We spoke in terms of email, websites and ‘above the fold’. SEO was a dark art and the big guns in the boardroom concerned themselves with turnover and market share.

But times, as they say, are a changing…

mobileIt’s hard to put your finger on when digital content first required a strategy; an overarching and constantly updated battle plan (and battle planner), that ensured all content was effective, current and measured in a way that delivered defined success objectives and attracted attention at director level.

Certainly the growth in digital content types and deployment opportunities (including the exponential growth of rich media and social media) were critical.

More types of content deployed in more ways.

  • Once forlorn items such as sign up forms for long forgotten initiatives and email programmes, conceived when the ark ran aground, were given intense scrutiny, alongside increasing awareness that their structure and vocabulary could revitalise their use.
  • Plus, managers and directors found themselves measured and an incentivised in ways that allowed the vast array of online data capture and analysis to be used as almighty carrots and sticks.
  • Tactical and consecutive approaches: first we’ll build the website, then we’ll start an email programme, then we’ll ‘get a Facebook’… had to be replaced by strategic, concomitant and integrated programmes predicated on customer behaviours and business results.

Those involved in husbanding digital content raised their game or found themselves marginalised from both the key decisions and key meetings.

Content strategy as a path to the boardroom

There was also a generational thing at play. The baby Boomers grew up and… grew old. Many relinquished their hold on old style IT gladly. Generation X got to grips with the digital revolution but it’s Generation Y that’s figured out that content strategy, and digital content strategy specifically, can help pave their way to the top.

GenYers, aka Millennials, children of Baby Boomers, younger siblings of GenXers and born somewhere between 1978 and 1995, are a totally different workplace breed.

They’re ambitious and want their rewards fast. To get both, they need to be strategic – not tactical. Careers are being forged by saying the right, insightful stuff to the right person, not by remaining hidden behind a computer screen, bashing out the copy for the new social media push, or loading witty bons mots on to TweetDeck. So content strategy grew up – and it’s still growing.

But it’s also getting smaller… and flatter… and altogether more interesting:

  • PC, laptop, notebook (briefly)
  • smartphone, tablet, app, gesture, touch
  • welcome to the new world.
The new revolution – and the power that comes with it

At the beginning of this article I mentioned when digital content first required a strategy, but that revolution is liable to look like the small coup in a teacup compared to what’s happening now.

It’s not just the nature of hand held devices and their touch and gesture interfaces, or the fact that users and their behaviours segue through multiple contexts during a single day:

  • smartphone in the commuter crush, catching up on work emails
  • office and PC (now loaded with OS 8.1) but with a lunchtime mobile sidebar in the park to check Tinder and order the groceries
  • followed by wine and sofa watching view on demand telly (at least two shows on the go) via a TV screen/tablet combo.

It’s the fact that we’re increasingly integrating devices seamlessly into our lifestyles.

Time was, content strategists focussed on delivery mechanism. Now, it’s all about receptivity.

And it’s also about ambition.

Not only are your customers going hand held, but so is the board, senior management, HR, your line manager. They’re interfacing with digital in a way that they never have previously.

Boards are dishing out tablets like sherry and dispensing with paper. Digital KPIs are a critical part of the business plan. And GenY is closing its collective fist round the keys of the (his ‘n’ hers) executive toilet.

Your future is coming – and it’s getting small and more powerful by the minute.

We’ll discuss at least some of this in the revamped content strategy course I’m delivering for eMarketeers