Mobile Content: Less is More

Aug 31, 2015

With 14 test cycles under our belt, the Federal CrowdSource Mobile Testing Program has heard one recurring theme from our testers—“there’s too much information!”

While both desktop monitor and smartphone screen sizes are growing, there is still no comparison. At our desks, many of us are using a 24 inch (or even bigger) monitor.

How big is your smart phone? Way smaller than a desktop monitor.

The user will have a radically different experience on a desktop, and they are usually expecting a different experience.

The graphic below really shows the issue—all of the devices below display a responsively designed application. But, look at how much of the application is hidden, rolled up or linked to on the small smartphones as opposed to the desktop.

A graphic showing the differences in how web pages display on desktops, tablets, and mobile phones

-izabell-, iStock, Thinkstock

If the same amount of information is available in all renderings using responsive design, how deep will the small device user need to dig to get the information that desktop users have on their front page?

What Happens When You Have Too Much Information on Your Mobile Site?

If you attempt to deliver all of the information you pack on your desktop site to a mobile device, what will happen? Ultimately, users will have a poor experience.

Your Customers May Not Be Able to See the Big Picture

Your application should have a mission and stick to it. This may mean that you need multiple applications. The mobile world is unique in that people want to be directed to a single source to solve their issue. You should find your mobile moment like the Transportation Security Administration did with their “What Can I Bring” app.

Your Customers May Get Lost

The deeper your users dig into a mobile application, the more likely they will become lost or disoriented. Users that become lost will start using the phone’s navigation and soon find themselves completely out of the application, most likely never to return.

Your Customers May Give Up!

Customers that only want one simple piece of information or to perform a single task will not want to keep clicking links and waiting for long pages to load. If they get lost or lose confidence, they will leave. We know that the average person will only wait three seconds for a Web page to load before they move on. With mobile connectivity, page loading may take even longer.

Slow Connection Speed Internet

Jrcasas, iStock, Thinkstock

How Are Agencies Trying to Pack Extra Information into Mobile Devices?

We have seen some creative ways to try to navigate a site full of information. For example: using “back to the top” links interspersed down the page and “what’s on this page” links to each section on the page.

Additionally, in a previous article, Trends on Tuesday: 8 Ways To Format Tables for Responsive Web Design, we provided some thoughts on how to display tables and charts in responsive design applications that are still usable.

But, these are really only band-aids covering a bigger problem.

How Can You Solve the Issue of Having Too Much Stuff on Your Site?

As more devices flood the market, it’s going to be harder to keep the message short. Here are two ways agencies are addressing this reality.

  • Create mobile experiences that cater to the specific information and tasks your mobile users want. You have to know your customer and how they are using mobile to interact with your information and services. You can look at analytics and survey data to find your users’ mobile moments. You also need a dash of creativity— content and services not popular on the traditional desktop may be immensely popular for mobile audiences, again, see TSA’s What Can I Bring?
  • Create Once, Publish Everywhere. The COPE model, popularized by National Public Radio, has been something a number of agencies hope to emulate. In this approach, you focus on structuring your data so that you can easily use the right amount of information for the right channel (e.g., 140 characters for a tweet). A number of agencies have been looking at how to implement this model and share information across government with the Open and Structured Content Working Group.