Archive | August, 2012

Writing slick content for mobile users

4 Aug

A neat bit of information has been published by usability guru, Jakob Nielsen and the team at Nielson Norman Group, about writing for mobile phones.

Websites and social media are no longer limited to the laptop, Mac or PC – people are carrying around the world’s information in their pockets via mobile devices such as phones and iPods. 

That means it’s useful – and important – to know how people use these devices and to ensure your content fits with how they’re used so that your product, service, brand and advertising messages gets across – and it’s likely to be different again from how people usually use the web. Mobile use has an impact on design, but on us copywriters too.  

Jakob Nielson’s research included how people use mobile websites, apps and email newsletters. I’ve distilled these fascinating findings (if it floats your boat) down to these few pointers when writing content for mobile users:

Main point:

  • The overarching aspect is to focus – the first screen has to contain only the most essential information


  • The narrow field of view of a mobile device makes it harder for users to comprehend content as there’s little visible context. 
  • People are usually in a rush when using mobile devices – less time is spent looking at emails and newsletters on a mobile
  • If faced on the first screen with lots of text, people are turned off.


  • Therefore, when writing for the web it’s important to be concise – and even more so with mobiles. Place only the most important information on a single page and place secondary content (the more in depth explanation and detail) on another page. 
  • Mobiles benefit from the progressive disclosure principle – meaning you reveal content piece by piece using hypertext to take the user to the detail. That way you save the basic information on the first screen and the rest is elsewhere. It allows users to click to the section they are interested in rather than scroll down the page
  • Don’t make your user work hard to find information – make everything as obvious as you can
  • Don’t clutter the page  – no big picture taking up useful copy space.

Jakob’s final thought

It’s better keep the initial screen focused and let particularly interested users delve into the detail – your customers will be more satisfied, you’ll get more traffic and your mobile content works better for your business.

Read the full blog update on writing focused content for mobile users by Jakob Nielsen.