Responsive content strategy: how content needs change on mobile

Connor Mason
  • Connor Mason
  • October 8, 2014
Responsive content strategy: how content needs change on mobile

Designing a mobile-friendly website is critical, especially considering the various advantages that mobile optimization grants in Google search results and conversion rates across devices. But deciding on a content strategy for responsive web comes down to more than design and layout. Designers and developers need to have insight into how their web visitors are using the page, and what expectations they have for the content. In the end, the content delivered to mobile users should bear in mind mobile-specific use cases, play into the users’ prior experience with web content, and prioritize content as it becomes relevant based on contextual device data.

First, brand web developers need to consider why mobile users might be accessing the site. What needs or expectations change depending on their device form factor? For example, mobile banking customers might access a mobile website to quickly check balances or make immediate transfers. Transaction histories and specific account data might be relevant to their needs on desktop, but aren’t tasks that lend themselves to the lightning-fast mobile user’s desires. Designing the web interface and arranging site content in such a way as to accelerate common tasks and ease frequent web routes will create an optimized mobile experience that keeps users coming back on mobile web.


Designers should also account for users’ past experiences with the website before undertaking a massive redesign—both on desktop and mobile. Tasks that are frequently accessed and relevant on the desktop version of the site might not perfectly apply on the mobile site, but users will still expect that functionality to be available. Adaptive web design—that is, delivering different versions of the site code depending on the user’s device user-agent—shouldn’t remove essential content or site features just because they’re less relevant on mobile. This content will be expected and necessary for a certain sub-set of mobile users, so they can still be included in menus or drop-downs for additional options in mobile-optimized versions of the site.

The key is to strike a balance between content abundance and feature immediacy, prioritizing features that are most relevant or common for mobile customers and only slightly obscuring access to more desktop-friendly functionalities. Web users will come to responsive websites with all kinds of expectations, and no single responsive or adaptive website design will accommodate all of them. But optimizing the content strategy for common red routes while still including infrequent, desktop-friendly functionalities can please as many mobile site visitors as possible—and foster positive mobile experiences with brand websites.

There’s no simple one-size-fits-all solution to how content strategy should work on mobile web, but there’s a set of best-practice strategies that can ease the transition of desktop content from screen to screen. Starting with user research to understand common needs and mobile-specific use-cases will ensure the right mix of prioritized features. Developers and content strategists can leverage this user research to understand that, while not all desktop content and capabilities are relevant on mobile, all users should be considered and all features should be accessible. As Google and other search engines begin adjusting their algorithms to favor mobile-responsive websites, having a mobile web experience at all is becoming the price of entry for new brand websites. Then, content strategists and designers can truly optimize mobile websites for mobile users, not just for their smartphones.


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