Consider the Mobile Reader by Ann Wylie

Reading articles on your smartphone can like reading “War and Peace” through a keyhole. 

In other words, it’s hard to keep readers engaged when they’re looking at content on a mobile device. The small screen size, variable connectivity and more add up to a lot of usability issues. 

However, according to Raluca Budiu and Jakob Nielsen, authors of the book “User Experience for Mobile Applications and Websites,” there has been a 294 percent increase in mobile usability guidelines (from 85 to 335) since the first iPhone was released in June 2007. 

Here are three thinks to keep in mind when considering the mobile reader:

1. SMARTPHONE SCREENS ARE TINY

Smartphone touchscreens are about 3.5-by-6.5 inches, according to Budiu and Nielsen’s calculations. It would take five screens on a smartphone to equal the space of a 30-inch monitor. That’s a tiny window for visitors to view your web pages, blog posts, news releases and social media status updates. 

As a result, mobile web visitors must work harder to obtain the same amount of information. 

SOLUTION: Prioritize and defer. Put essential details on the main page, while moving secondary and tertiary material out of the way via links or accordion menus. Don’t forget: Information isn’t that visible on the small screen. 

2. ATTENTION SPANS ARE SHORT. 

Mobile web visitors are likely to get interrupted at any moment. 

They’re cooling their heels with your blog post at the doctor’s office—until their name is called. They’re looking up the date of your webinar in the grocery line—until it’s their turn to step up to the cash register. 

Attention spans on mobile devices are half as long as they are on a computer. According to a Mobile HCI study, the average desktop session duration is 150 seconds. 

The average mobile session duration? 72 seconds. 

“Show users what they need as soon as possible,” write Budiu and Nielsen. “Flooding them with details and asking them to parse walls of text for relevant facts is not interruption friendly.”

SOLUTION: Put the hot stuff up top. Pass the 1–2–3–4 test: will they get the gist of your message by reading the first few paragraphs?

3. CONNECTIVITY IS A CRAPSHOOT 

“Though we’re living om the era of fast cellular networks and ubiquitous Wi–Fi, cell phone coverage is not universally good. In an environment where connectivity issue are given, “every new page load translate into a significant waiting time when the network does not cooperate,” according to Budiu and Nielsen. 

SOLUTION: Reduce the number of pages. Put full stories and sets instructions on single pages. Don’t string readers along if you don’t have to: it can be a major turn-off. “What’s slightly annoying” on a desktop, write Budiu and Nielsen, “is overwhelming” on a smartphone.

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