Don't Cut Corners When Creating for Mobile, It's a Different Medium

You've Got Only Seconds to Get Noticed, on a Much Smaller Screen than a Desktop

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While many publishers are bringing content to the growing number of mobile users, others still struggle to adapt. Transitioning to the medium in haste, many cut corners, not fully understanding the nuances involved. In advertising, for example, long-form video with sound and automatic-play is effective for desktop users, but fails when delivered on mobile. With seconds to get a mobile user's attention, intrusive noises and slower-loading video will turn users off.

A strategy tailored specifically to mobile is essential. Publishers need to ask themselves a few key questions before jumping in:

  • Are we really committed to making mobile a revenue stream?
  • What resources do we need to add to maintain it?
  • Is there demand from our users -- do we have page views on wireless devices?
  • Is there demand from our advertisers to buy mobile media?

When users are on for minutes, rather than hours at a time, the advertiser must offer engaging creative that is designed for small spaces and develop ads that a user can expand if he's interested. A campaign's conversion goals (view, download, purchase) should be achieved in three taps or clicks, max. Rich media, or a strong, yet simple, call-to-action banner and well-designed landing page ensure a great user experience, with no confusion over what to do.

It is also essential that mobile sites or apps have clear, visual divides allowing the user to distinguish between content and advertising. Many use contrasting blocks of color for levels of navigation and white space around content. It's best to use only one ad unit per page.

Remember that not all mobile users will be connected through fast Wi-Fi. Content and advertising need to be designed to load faster. Content-management systems and page structure will need to recognize when mobile environments need streamlined content, smaller-resolution images, compressed video and a cleaner setting fit for a smaller screen.

The debate between developing content for mobile web versus an application is contentious. A mobile site can render on all devices and operating systems -- no need for separate versions or updating for new operating-system releases. Mobile apps provide an easy user experience -- no need to launch a browser, type a URL and login to the site for personalization. An app launches with a single tap with saved preferences. Some devices allow users to save a URL that appears like an app type tile on their dashboard, and HTML5 has been used in mobile web properties to create app-like experiences.

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Build for mobile web or apps? It depends on how the customer will consume the content.

A while back I had a shocking discussion with the head of digital for a major magazine conglomerate around driving ad revenue through mobile. This executive boldly claimed that the company was building close to a thousand mobile apps for all of its titles. Now, hold on a second. The editorial content of these titles ranges from teenage girls to senior citizens, fashion to travel to technology to food, men's and women's. Would building iPhone, iPad and Android apps be the blanket answer?

It's not. Immediately, it's expensive to build a thousand apps and even more expensive to maintain them with fresh content. Most importantly, the audiences are not the same, so consumption will be different. An iPad app makes sense for a high-end fashion or travel publication, where users expect the most detailed imagery, but why an iPad app for a sports site, where 90% of the usage is checking scores or fantasy league standings? In many cases, the question to raise is , why develop an app when mobile web will do just fine?

The potential to monetize apps through paid download or advertising is unique to each audience. Not all regular visitors to a publisher's website would pay for an app of a particular title, even if it were available for their new iPad.

Mobile will evolve as new, powerful devices affect how users experience the medium. These considerations will help publishers lay the groundwork for an effective strategy, enabling them to fully unlock its revenue potential.

Dave Gwozdz is CEO of Mojiva Inc.
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