Does your content even matter?

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One of the key discussion points when scoping and building a new responsive web site that is very important to the overall design process is related to content, and how it should change for each version of the site.

In typical content discussions regarding desktop / mobile variations is how much the content needs to be different, how it will be stored and managed, and what each version should have that matches the user ‘type’.

This always raises a very important question. Who is making that determination?

Is it the site owners / designers / marketing department or is it the users?

Much of the rationale behind changing the content to suit device is that mobile users want to be able to skim and move on. I believe that much of this relates to the view or belief that the sites are different and the users are different.

This is flawed logic in my opinion and misses the fundamental point:

Users are choosing to use different devices; they aren’t saying they want different information.

Think about your decision making process in looking for a movie. If you are in buying mode – i.e. you know the movie and just want to book in times and get tickets online then your intent and needs are different to if you haven’t made your mind up which movie yet.

The fact you might be on the site for the cinema on your mobile device (perhaps on the bus on the way home) doesn’t change the fact you are wanting to see the trailer and the write-up / reviews of the movie.

This content is very important to you in your decision process. The content need you have is no different at this point on your mobile device as to if you were on your laptop / desktop device.

The only difference here is that you need it rendered / provided to you in a method that suits the device, i.e. format and layout need to be smarter for the device, options need to be handled in a hierarchy suitable for the experience, and potentially you might want to see a lower quality version of a trailer due to your bandwidth issues on this device (possibly).

At no point is your intent to make your decision off less information. Your need is to still go and see hopefully see a fun and worthwhile movie. Only the device has changed. So the design process should make two pathways; one for the quick purchase and one for the person researching. That should be the same on a desktop site as well.

A few years ago data indicated that mobile phone browsers were more likely to be in a buying mode and have more local intent than on a desktop, and this is still true in certain circumstances.

At 7pm at night if you are typing in “Indian restaurants Paddington” you have a clear intent to find a restaurant, most likely on your way out, and looking for the contact / location details.

That is quite possibly true. It could also be equally true you want to go out in two nights time and are watching TV, saw an Indian restaurant and thought ‘wow Indian sounds good for this weekend’. So now you are researching.

The point here is that making content decisions about the mobile experience that make it a lesser experience is wrong.

We know already that mobile device usage is massive and search engine queries from mobile devices are heading well past 50% of all searches. We know that the overall usage on many sites is growing massively on mobile devices (just check your analytics) and all the leading forecasters have already said mobile is the path forward. This doesn’t mean just phones, it is any form of portable internet connected device.

This isn’t about people on the go wanting a quick fix, this is a fundamental shift in the way people are using the internet. So when determining the content you need for your responsive site (or any site) the better question should be: What content does everybody need?

What I mean is if the content is enough for a mobile device user then why should it be any different for a desktop user?

What rationale / evidence do you have in making the decisions for more content on desktop than mobile device, or for reducing the content on the mobile device?

You should be thinking about the real value of the content versus the size / length of the content. Ultimately if your content is good and is what the user needs to help them in their research / purchase then it should stay.

You then need to only be discussing how to deliver it on different devices versus how to display different content.

This is a generalisation of course, and there are definitely examples of content that it would be impractical to directly deliver to a mobile device that may have screen size / bandwidth issues. There might be large files that are needed for certain user types that are not designed at all for use on any mobile device.

That is a conscious choice though versus a default choice.

By default you should be reviewing all your content and asking yourself “is this useful to anyone on any device?”

If it doesn’t pass that test get rid of it. There is no fault in having less content if the content you have is better for the user and helps them do what you want them to do on your site.

So does the content matter? Of course it does!

Importantly make sure the content you produce has value then spend time making sure it is displayed and made user friendly across all the devices types and you will be far better off than cutting huge chunks of content out just to fit a smaller screen.

That’s what ireckon, what do you reckon?

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